July/December 1993 . Tammuz 5753/Tevet 5754 . Vol. XXIII . No. I-2
From the Editor
Echoes of History in the Siddur
Miriam Weissbach and Her
Melodies for Tehillim
The Butterfly Comes Home
A Letter From Lithuania
The Hazzan - As Seen From A
Seat In The Congregation
Report of the Executive
Jack Chomsky 4
Hayyim Kieval 6
Lee Shai Weissbach 21
Charles Davidson 25
Jerome Barry 33
Julius Blackman 36
Samuel Rosenbaum 43
Hesped 1 992 Solomon Mendelson 55
Eulogy for Hazzan Yehudah Mandel David Tilman 60
Eulogy for Hazzan Yehudah Mandel David Katchen 62
Project Manginot Robert Scherr 64
Synagogue Music by Paul Kowarsky
Shirat Libi by Jerome Kopmar
Family Shabbat and Festival Medley
Jerome Kopmar 66
Abraham Lubin 68
Stephen Freedman 69
Shimon Gewirtz 71
Five Psalms Miriam Weissbach
Ha-Shamayim M'saprim K'vod El (Psalm 1)
Torat Adonai (Psalm 19)
Ad Ana (Psalm 13)
Hariu LAdonai Kol Ha-aretz (Psalm 98)
Ashrei Ha-lsh (Psalm 1)
Shiru Shir Chadash - Hallel Contest Winners
Hal'lu Et Adonai Hodu
Amar Rabbi Elazar
Emil Berkovits 81
Shimon Gewirtz 82
Yossi Zucker 84
Charles Heller 85
Daniel Katz 87
Daniel Katz 90
JOURNAL OF SYNAGOGUE MUSIC, Volume XXIII Numbers 1-2
July /December 1993 . Tammuz 5753 - Tevet 57.54
EDITOR: Jack Chomsky
MANAGING EDITOR: Samuel Rosenbaum
REVIEW EDITOR: Robert Scherr
EDITORIAL BOARD: Ira Bigeleisen, Kenneth Cohen. Stephen
Freedman, Edwin Gerber, Paid Kowarskx. Brian Mayer, Eugene
Rosner, Robert Scherr. David Silverstein.
OFFICERS OF THE CANTORS ASSEMBLY: Stephen J. Stein,
President; Abraham Lubin, Vice President; David Propis, Treasurer;
Henry Rosenblum, Secretary; Samuel Rosenbaum, Executive Vice
JOURNAL OF SYNAGOGUE MUSIC is a semi-annual publication.
The subscription fee is $15 per year. All subscription correspondence
should be addressed to Journal of Synagogue Music, Can tot-s Assem-
bly. 3080 Broadway, Suite 613, New York, N Y. 10027.
Articles and Letters to the Editor should be addressed' to Cantor Jack
Chomsky, Editor, Journal of Synagogue Music, 1354 East Broad Street,
Columbus. Ohio 13205. Telephone is (614) 253-8523. Fax is (614)
i _ \rlici < a a pewri I do '?/< a, < I. Musit
and musical examples should be photo-ready. Material car also he sent
on computer disks us follows: IBM-compatible 5 1/4" or 3 1/2" using
WordPerfect 5.1 software or Macintosh 3 1/2" using Pagemaker 1.2
software. For further questions, contact the editor.
Copyright © 1993: Cantors Assembly
FROM THE EDITOR
It is with mixed feelings that I introduce this edition of the Journal of
Synagogue Music to its readers. I have chosen to end my tenure as editor
with this issue, having found it increasingly difficult to produce the Journal
in a timely manner. As I look back over the last five years, I am proud of
the many different kinds of articles which I've been privileged to share with
our readers. I have endeavored to make the Journal a place where worthy
scholarship appropriate to the Hazzan's profession would be found along-
side reminiscences of times gone by and people we can only remember, as
well as a place where one might find challenging new ideas to help us to
rethink our role as leaders in our congregations and communities. If I have
succeeded on any level, it is of course because of those praiseworthy
individuals who have submitted materials for publication. The world
needs more such people, and it is my prayer that my successor will find
such a blessing. I look forward to assisting future Journal editors and
perhaps assuming an eminently active role again some years down the
In particular, I would like to thank the leadership of the Cantors
Assembly, who entrusted me with the special privilege of being Journal
editor. Thanks to Sam Rosenbaum for great patience and sound advice and
to Bob Scherr for being Review Editor and helping to ease some of my
burden. I am also particularly grateful to my dear friend Les Somogyi of
Minuteman Press in Columbus, Ohio. Les has produced and printed the
Journal since early in my tenure and has accepted all of the challenges of
this multi-lingual multi-style publication with patience, humor, love and
Here's what you'll find in this issue... We begin with a reprint of an
article by Rabbi Hayyim Kieval (z"l) which originally appeared in the
Summer 1990 Jewish Spectator. Rabbi Kieval was one of the beloved
teachers of the Cantors Institute and Cantors Assembly. He had begun a
project of a series of articles on liturgical subjects for the Journal prior to
his passing in 1991.
Lee Shai Weissbach's tribute to his mother reminds us that there are
others who serve nobly in the pursuit of sharing our Jewish musical
heritage. As you read his piece, remember all the people who teach and
have taught music in our religious schools. They are blessed soldiers in the
battle to preserve our traditions.
Charles Davidson and Jerome Barry have contributed articles relating
their remarkable experiences visiting Europe during recent years: Charles
"returns" to Terezin, whence came the haunting poetry which he immor-
talized in his beautiful "I Never Saw Another Butterfly." Jerome visits a
hazzanut- starved Lithuania. Having visited Russia and other former
Soviet republics myself in 1989, I continue to be fascinated (and often
frightened) as Jewish and public life are m-defined in those lands.
Julie Blackman has written an affectionate and provocative look at the
work of hazzanim from the perspective of a retired colleague who gets to
watch many of "us" at work,
Sam Rosenbaum's presentations at the Annual Meetings of the Cantors
Assembly are always worth preserving and re-visiting. This issue of the
Journal includes the 1992 Annual Report. The Memorials to departed
colleagues always touch me and illuminate the impact which each hazzan
has on his or her own congregation and community. This is particularly
true of Hazzan Solomon Mendelson's eloquent Hesped from the 1992
Cantors Assembly Convention. Most recently, the passing of our beloved
colleague Yehudah Mandel precipitated two moving eulogies included in
As always, there are various review items as well. The Project
Manginot series of the UAHC is a particularly significant work. Reviews
of recent compositions by Paul Kowarsky and Jerome Kopmar are
included, as are various musical pieces. From the songs of Miriam
Weissbach to compositions by Charles Heller and Daniel Katz to the
winners of Bob Scherr's Hallel Song Contest, something of interest to all
our readers, we hope.
Enjoy your reading, and many thanks for your constant support over
the last five years.
— Jack Chomsky
ECHOES OF HISTORY IN THE SIDDUR
By HAYYIM Herman KIEVAL
DEDICATF.D TO the luminous memory OF my friend and editor,
TRUDE Weiss-R- smarin
Abraham Joshua Heschel observed that the Jews in Christian Europe
never tried to imitate the magnificent cathedrals they saw all around them:
"No beautiful synagogues were built; instead bridges were built, leading
from the heart to God." The "bridges" that Heschel referred to were the
prayers of many generations of pious men and women. The "blue-prints,"
according to which these prayers were constructed, were those unique
creations of Jewish liturgy - the Siddur, the Machzor, and the Haggadah,
plus the many collections of Piyyutim and Sdichot and Kinot. Rooted in
the language and spirit of Sacred Scripture, enriched by the insights of the
Rabbinic sages, and adorned with the piety of thirty generations, the
prayerbook has served as the daily guide and companion of faithful Jews
for more than a thousand years.
This prayerbook, popularly know as the Siddur (literally, order, i.e., of
prayers), was an original creation of the Jewish genius - the first attempt
in the history of religion to fashion a standard pattern of prayer for both
public and private worship. All other books of prayer in the Western world
have been influenced by the Siddur. Its impact on Jewish culture and
consciousness is beyond measure. It is second only to the Tanakh (the
Hebrew Bible) as the book most familiar to the average Jew. Its words,
rituals, and ideas have helped to shape the thinking, behavior, and beliefs
of Jews throughout the world during the 2,000 years of its existence. This
achievement is all the more remarkable because this heritage was
transmitted for many centuries only orally. The first written prayerbooks
did not appear until the ninth and tenth centuries in Babylonia.
The essential function of the Siddur was to inspire Jews to communi-
cate with God for every need of the spirit, every day of their lives. It served
as the instrument for dialogue between the individual worshipper, or the
praying congregation, and the Master of the Universe, to use a favorite
phrase of the traditional prayers. Like a diamond with many polished
faces, the Siddur has a number of facets. It is a classic of Hebrew literature.
RABBIHAYYIM KIEVAL was Rabbi Emeritusof Temple Israel of Albany, New Yolk, and
along-time friend and teacher of the Cantors Assembly who died in 1991. This article was
fi rst published in The ; evtish Spectator, Summer 1990, and is reproduced here with their kind
permission. For more Information about The Jewish Spectator, write Jewish Spectator. 439
Park Milano, Calabasas, California. 91302 or call (818) 591-7481.
It is also an anthology of memorable chapters and verses from the Tanakh
and passages from the ancient Rabbinic literature, Most significantly, in
a religion that lacks a systematic theology, the Siddur is a rare authentic
statement of what Jews actually have believed.
It also reflects various historical experiences of the Jewish people. The
Siddur preserves - sometimes directly, more often indirectly - memories
of national achievements and collective disasters, triumphs and defeats,
exile and suffering at the hands of the nations, and confrontations with
other religions, as well as internal controversies with sectarian groups. It
can be said that the most effective way to lock a historical experience of
the Jewish people into its collective memory is to preserve that experience
in the Siddur.
The most familiar example of institutionalizing such a historical
memory is the crucial formative event in the history of Israel, which has
left its imprint on virtually every page of the Siddur. That event is yetzi'at
Mitzrayim, the liberation of the Hebrew slaves from the bondage of Egypt
and their passage to freedom as a nation covenanted at Sinai with the God
of their ancestors. The historical memory phrased in the formula, zekher
li-yetzi' at Mitzrayim, (in memory of the Exodus from Egypt) is not
confined to the Pesach prayers. It resonates throughout the Torah and the
rest of the Tahakh. It runs through the liturgy for all the festivals, not only
Shavuot and Sukkot, which are closely linked to Pesach, but even Rosh
Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Nor are the prayers for Shabbat silent on the
memory of the Exodus, the Kiddush recited on Friday night in homes as
well as synagogues includes the phrase. zkher li-yetzi' at Mitzrayim. One
does not have to wait for Shabbat, Every day. as part of the Keri'ut Shema,
a direct reference to the Exodus is included, morning and evening.
The emphasis on zekher li-yetzi' at Mitzrayim has permeated the
consciousness of the Jewish people down to the present day. Every Jew
who has lived through the 40' s, 50's, and 60's is familiar with concepts like
"Exodus the DP Camps," "Exodus Yemen," "Exodus Iraq," and "Exodus
Romania." Even those who have become involved with Jewish communal
concerns only during the past five years have experienced "Exodus
Ethiopia," and we are now witnessing "Exodus Soviet Union." It is
reasonable to expect that, in time, all of these latter-day experiences of
Exodus will be reflected in Siddurim of the future.
For the M iraculous Deliverance
Another example of the clear, direct reference in the Siddur to a
historical experience is the summary of the events which led to the two
joyous holidays of Purim and Hanukkah. These experiences were re-
corded in the traditional liturgy by twin prayers, which follow the same
pattern: Bi-y'mei Mordekhai v-Esther (In the days of Mordecai and Esther,
etc.) for Purim; and Bi-jy' meiMatitya.hu, (In the days of Mattathias, etc.) for
Hanukkah. Both of these resumes are introduced by the brief prayer Al ha-
nissim: We thank you (God), for the heroism, for the triumphs, and for the
miraculous deliverance of our ancestors, etc. The most recent edition of the
Conservative version of the Siddur, Sim Shalom, uses at this point a more
accurate Hebrew text. Instead of the conventional wording (in the Ashkenzic
minhag), ba-z'man ha-zeh - usually rendered (incorrectly) "at this season"
- the corrected reading is u-va-z'eman ha-zeh, which yields an entirely
different idea, namely, "in other days and in our own time." this liturgical
form, Al ha-nissim, (as we shall see) has recently been adapted to create
prayers which record the two most important historical experiences of the
Jewish people in the twentieth century, the Holocaust and the reestablish-
ment of the Jewish State.
Following the introductory prayer, Al ha-nissim, the Siddur provided
a brief synopsis of the historical events associated with Purim and
Hanukkah. The Purim story was familiar to our ancestors through the
Megillah (Scroll) of Esther in the Bible. But the passage beginning Bi-
y'mei Matityahu, "In the days of Mattathias. the Hasmoncan, etc.," was for
many centuries the only information available to Jews about the complex
political, military, and religious background to the struggle that resulted in
the recapture of Jerusalem by the Maccabees. Because the Hebrew Bible
antedates the Hasmonean period while the Talmud is almost totally silent
about the Maccabees and has only a few skimpy references to Hanukkah
generally, the Siddur was their only source of information on the Hanuk-
Not only victories and deliverances are recorded. Far more character-
istic of its historical memories are defeats and subjugations. The supreme
tragedy that befell our people in ancient times was the Churban, the
destruction of the city of Jerusalem along with its Holy Temple by the
Romans in 70 C.E. and the end of Jewish independence, which was to last
until the rebirth of the State Israel in our time. There is, to be sure, a specific
day in the religious calendar of Judaism to commemorate that catastrophe,
namely, the fast of Tisha B'Av, but there are reminiscences of the
cataclysm in the daily prayers as well.
Recalling the Worship in the Jerusalem Temple
The seventeenth berakhah of the daily Amidah / Shemoneh Esrei
recalls the Avodah, the system of worship through ritual sacrifies offered
up in the Jerusalem Temple. It begins with the word R'tzei, "Accept (the
prayer of Your people Israel, etc.)." There are, however, two versions of
that prayer. One, the form recited in the pre-Churban period; the other,
following the destruction of the Bet ha-Mikdush. While the Temple
existed, the berakhah concluded with the words sheh-ot'kha I-vad'kha b-
yir'ah na'avod, (Praised are You Lord, You alone shall we worship in
reverence). The word translated as "worship" is the Hebrew ru'avod.
referring to the Avodah, the sacrificial offerings on the altar. This phrase,
which has been obsolete in daily usage for the past 1900 years, is revived
only on those occasions, especially rare in the Diaspora, when Kohanim
go up on the Bimah to recite the Priestly Blessing in the Synagogue. This
ritual is one of the few surviving remnants of the Avodah of the Temple.
On all other occasions, the concluding words of the berakhah were
changed to ha-machazir shekhinato l-tzion (Praised are You, Lord) who
restores his presence to Zion. What is implicit in the birkat Avodah is made
explicit in the central prayer of Musaf service on the Mo'adim (Festivals).
U-mip'nei hata'einu, (Because of our sins were we exiled from our land.
etc.). This prayer laments the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple,
bemoans the loss of the opportunity to continue offering the ritual
sacrifices, and, in the text of the classical Siddur, prays for their restoration.
Siddurim of the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist movements
have not retained the traditional petitions for the restoration of animal
Creator of All Things
Another fascinating type of historical reminiscence in the Siddur are
the echoes of theological controversy. There is a possible instance in the
very first berakhah of the formal section of the Shacharit (morning)
service, that is, after the Reader or Hazzan chants the call to public
worship, Barekhu This first benediction before the Shema is called by the
Talmudic sages Yotzer, (God) the Creator. It reads "Praised are You. Lord
our God... who forms light and creates darkness, who makes peace and
creates all things." These words are derived verbatim from the book of
Isaiah, chap. 4.5, verse 7, except for the last two words in the Hebrew test
and the translation. Instead of the original et ha-kol (all things). When wc
bear in mind the awesome reverence these Sages had for every letter of
Sacred Scripture, it is difficult to understand how they could have taken
such a radical step. Would any Prayer Book Commission of our rabbinical
associations today presume to do such a thing? The Talmud explains why
the change was made:
What benedictions does one say (in the morning)? R.
Jacob said in the name of R. Oshaia: "(Praised are You)
who forms light and creates darkness. "Let him say rather:
"Who forms light and creates brightness'?' - We keep the
language of Scripture. If that is so, (what of the next words
in the text) "who makes peace and creates evil: "do we
repeat them as they are written (in Scripture)? It is written
"evil" (ra) but we say "all things" (et ha-kol) as a euphe-
(Berakhot 1 1 a-b)
Unfortunately, the Sages did not explain why the word "evil" bothered
them so much. There must have been a serious challenge - presumably
from some competing religious philosophy - to induce these Sages to
amend the revered, sacred text of the Scripture! The best guess of the
scholars is that this theological challenge came from either the Zoroastrian
religion of ancient Persia (whose followers still exist today among the
Parsees of Iran and India) or, later, from the religious philosophy known
as Gnosticism, which flourished in the Greco-Roman world, both of these
theological systems were dualisms. They taught that the control of the
universe is shared by two primal powers constantly at war with one
another, that all of reality is a struggle between light and darkness, good
and evil, heaven and earth, soul and body. One of the first Dead Sea Scrolls
discovered was "The War of the Sons of Light and the Sons of Darkness,"
a theme reflected in the architecture of the Shrine of the Book in Jerusalem,
built to house the Scrolls.
The Rabbinic sages called this seductive philosophy Sh'tci Reslmyol.
The Two Realms/Jurisdictions (see Mishnah Berakhot 5:3). They feared
Gnosticism because it offered too simplistic an explanation of the peren-
nial problem: how can evil exist in a world that God created and declared
to be "good"' ? We need only think of our ongoing contemporary theologi-
cal dilemma: "How could a just God permit the Holocaust?" Yet Judaism
never succumbed to the heresy of a dualistic religion, insisting that there
is only one God who " forms light and creates darkness, who makes peace
and creates evil." The only reason the word for "evil" (ra) was softened to
"all things" (ha-kol) was the perceived need for a more felicitous expres-
sion, suitable to the mood of prayer.
Lord, Who Revives the Dead
Another place in the classical Siddur w here one hears the echo of
sectarian controversy is the second berakhah of the Amidah. The Mishnah
and Talmud both call this prayer Gevurot, Power, because it begins with
the words Attah gibbor. You (God) are powerful. The prayer goes on to
detail various "powers" of God. including that of bringing rain to the earth.
There are also other powers: "your lovingkindness sustains the living... you
support the failing, heal the sick, and free the fettered." To these, the
Pharisees added the power of God to "give life to the dead," the weakest
of all God's creatures: "You sustain the living with lovingkindness: with
great mercy you bring the dead to life again Praised are you. Lord, who
revives the dead."
This new emphasis did not come without a struggle. The Sadducees,
who contested with the Pharisaic party for spiritual authority during the
Second Jewish Commonwealth, rejected the belief of their opponents in
tGChi' al ha-metim. the resurrection of the dead. We cite the well-known
comment of the Mishnah on this issue, bearing in mind that the Mishnah
represents the views of the Pharisees and that they were probably denounc-
ing the Sadducees:
These arc they who have no share in the world-to-
come, whoever says there is no resurrection of the dead
(prescribed in the Torah)...
(Sanhedrin 10: 1)
For Sectarians, No Hope
The best-known expression in the Siddur of opposition to heretics and
sectarians is the twelfth berakhah of the Amidah. called in the Talmud
B/r/faf ha-Minim. the benediction dealing with sectarians. Our current text
begins with the Hebrew world, (v) la-malshinim, for slanderers (let there
be no hope); but originally - as the Talmudic name of this berakhah testifies
- it began with a reference to minim, "sectarians" or Notzrim, "Nazarenes."
or meshumadim, "apostates." or a combination of these uncomplimentary
terms. They vary from one version of the Siddur to another. It is not hard
to understand what agitated the Pharisaic teachers. In our own time,
sectarian groups like "Jews For Jesus" arc not welcomed into synagogues
as members of the Jewish faith-community. What our ancestors did,
according to the Talmud, was to amend an old berakhah in such a way a s
to prevent Jews who had joined a heretical sect from leading the prayers
in the Synagogue:
Said Rabban Gamaliel to the Sages: Can anyone among
you frame a Berakhah relating to the Minim (sectarians)?
Samuel the Lesser arose and composed it.. .If a reader (of
the prayer service) made a mistake in any other Berakhah,
they do not remove him; but, if in the Birkat Ha-minim, he
is removed because we suspect him of being a Min
(Berakhot 28b - 29aj
Note that there is no mention of the particular sectarian group that is
being denounced. Nearly all popular books on the Siddur state that this
berakhah was intended specifically to drive Jewish followers of Jesus from
the Synagogue, but there is no hard evidence for this conclusion.
The Ten Commandments
A striking example of how theological controversy has affected Jewish
liturgy is one that might be called "The Prayer That Isn't There Any More."
If it is true that the Siddur is an authentic record of basic Jewish beliefs and
doctrines, why is there no place in our Prayerbooks for the most fundamen-
tal expression of beliefs and doctrines in the Jewish religion, namely, the
Ten Commandments? Many editions of the Siddur do print the Decalogue,
but they relegate it to an appendix following the morning service along
with several other passages from the Bible. How can we account for such
cavalier treatment'? How was it possible for the Jewish people, throughout
the long evolution of its worship, to have ignored the Ten Command-
ments? Certainly not because the Rabbinic sages failed to notice their
grandeur and significance! On the contrary, the Aseret ha-Dibrot/Devarim
are lauded in the Talmud and Midrash in superlative terms and given equal
status with the Shema.
Yet, even when the classical pattern of public worship appears to
require a passage from the Decalogue, some other verses from the Torah
are substituted for no discernible reason. A case in point is the Amidah for
Shabbat morning. The central prayer (Kedushat Ha-Yomj, which deals
specifically with the observance of the Sabbath, begins with an ancient
poem, Yismach Moshe:
Moses rejoiced at the gift of his destiny. ..as he stood
in Your presence atop Mt. Sinai. Two tables of stone did
he bring down, inscribed with Shabbat observance. And
thus it is written in Your Torah:
In view of the direct reference in the above poem to the Ten Command-
ments, the logical passage to quote at this point from the Torah would
surely be one of the two Decalogue versions of the commandment to
observe the Sabbath - either " Remember the sabbath day and keep it holy,
etc." (Exodus 20:8) or "Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, etc."
(Deuteronomy 5: 12). Yet, for some reason that defies understanding, the
ancient Sages selected instead the passage from Exodus 32: 16 17, V-
shamm b'nei Yisrael er ha-shabbat (The people Israel shall observe
Shabbat. to maintain it as an everlasting covenant throughout all genera-
tions, etc.) The careful observer can only conclude that there must have
been some doctrinal reason for passing over the obviously appropriate
citation from the Aseret ha-Dibrot/Devarim. The solution of this mystery
becomes possible when we recall that the recitation of the Ten Command-
ments was originally an integral part of the oldest order of Jewish public
prayer on record - the service that was held every morning in the Chamber
of Hewn Stones in the Temple of Jerusalem, following the offering of the
Tamid sacrifice on the altar. The Mishnah, in a passage considered
contemporary with the event, describes the procedure:
The officer said to them (the Kohanim), "Recite one
berakhah." They recited one berakhah (possibly Yotzer or
Ahavah), and recited the Aseref ha-Devarim (the Ten Com-
mandments), the Shema, and V-haya im shamo'a (It shall come
to pass if you hearken), and Va-yomer (The Lord spoke to
Moses). They pronounced three berakhot with the people:
Emetv-yatziv (True and certain), and Avodah (the cultic ritual)
and Birkut Kohanim (the Priestly Benediction).
There is still further evidence that the Ten Commandments were once
included in the Jewish liturgy. In 1903, a British scholar published a
manuscript fragment of an early liturgy for Jews in Egypt from the second
century C.E., called the Nash Papyrus. Before the discovery of the Dead
Sea Scrolls, this was the oldest extant Biblical manuscript, this fragment
contains the beginning of the Keri-at Shema, directly preceded by the
Aserethu-Dibwt, exactly as the Mishnah tractate Tamid records! Both the
Babylonian and Palestinian Talmuds record persistent attempts to restore
the recitation of the Decalogue to the daily morning service, just as it was
practiced in the Jerusalem Temple.
Both recensions of the Talmud agree that the reason for omitting the
Ten Commandments was tai'omet ha- minim, the insinuations of the
sectarians. What these "insinuations" were is explained in the passage
from the Palestinian Talmud: that "only these (Ten Commandments) were
given to Moses at Sinai." All of these ancient rabbinic comments tell us the
same thing. The Jews themselves "censored" the Decalogue out of their
daily prayers lest they seem to be acknowledging the claims of the early
Christians, who accepted the validity of the Ten Commandments but
rejected the other demands of the Torah.
True, none of these texts mentions the Christians by name as the
proponents of this heresy. That may be due to persistent censorship of the
Talmud by Church authorities in the Middle Ages, usually with the help
of apostates from Judaism. References to Jesus (Yeshu) or his followers or
Christians generally were removed and replaced by terms such as minim
or akum (Pagans). But some manuscripts got by the censors: for example.
MachzorViby, an important book on religious practice in the Franco-
German communities at the time of the First Crusade. This twelfth century
work by a pupil of Rashi. Rabbi Simhah of Vitry, identifies the sectarians
who accepted only the Ten Commandments as followers of Jesus.
The Talmudic prohibition on reciting the Decalogue as part of the daily
prayer was observed throughout the Jewish world, but there were excep-
tions. We find it again in use in the Palestinian synagogues in Fustat (old
Cairo) throughout the Geonic period down to the time of Maimonides and
beyond (121 1).
Our Duty To Praise the Lord of All
Perhaps the most familiar example of self-censorship in the Siddur is
the case of one if its most prominent prayers, Alenu l-shabe' ah, which,
since the thirteenth century, ends each statutory service in the Synagogue.
This majestic declaration of Israel's allegiance to the supreme sovereignty
of God was borrowed from its original place in the liturgy, namely the
Rosh Hashanah Musaf service, where it serves as the prologue to the
prayer-group known as Malkhuyot Divine Kingship. Alenu has had a
dramatic career. It dates back, possibly, to the days of the Second Temple
in Jerusalem. It was subjected to persecution at the hands of medieval
Church authorities. It served as a martyr's song for the Jews of Blois,
France, in I 171. It has inspired moving refutations by, among others,
Menasseh ben Israel (in 16.56) and Moses Mendelsohn (in the eighteenth
century) of calumnies uttered by Jewish apostates and Christian divines.
Since the sixteenth century, Ashkenazic Jewry has felt constrained to
excise from their version of the Siddur a phrase which was attacked by the
Church as insulting to Jesus.
The Alenu prayer opens with the words: "We rise to our duty to praise
the Lord of all. to acclaim the Creator. He made our lot unlike that of other
people, assigning us a unique destiny" (translation by Rabbi Jules Harlow).
At this point, there is an abrupt transition in the Hebrew text which is
obscured in most translations. The Hebrew reads: "But. we bend the knee
and bow, proclaiming Him as King of Kings, the Holy One praised is He."
The initial word "but" (Hebrew va) adverts to the preceding thought, which
is no longer part of the text of our prayer, because the Jews themselves
expunged it out of fear of Christian anger, however unjustified. For the
missing passage we need turn only to the text of the Alenu prayer in the
Sephardic version of the Siddur (which was not subject to Christian
pressure) or to old manuscripts of the Ashkenzic. The disputed phrase is:
"for they (the pagan nations of the world) bow down to vanity and
emptiness and pray to a god that cannot save." Although these words are
quoted from the Hebrew Scriptures (Isaiah 30:7 and 45:20). which
antedate the rise of Christianity by centuries, and although the composition
of Alenu proper is almost certainly pre-Christian, the word "vanity and
emptiness" (hevel va-rik) were misconstrued by Church authorities -
relying on malicious interpretations by apostates from the Jewish commu-
nity - as cryptic, mocking references to Christian worship. Such malevo-
lent exegesis was achieved by using the Talmudic method of gematria,
assigning for homiletical purposes numerical values to the letters of the
Hebrew alphabet. Thus, the fourteenth century apostate, Pesach Peter,
equated the word varik (and emptiness), the numerical value of whose
letters is 3 16, with the word Yeshii ( Jesus), which has the same value in
gematria ! Bernard Gui, who directed the Inquisition in France in the early
fourteenth century, was aware of this accusation. The calumny was
repeated by the elder Buxtorf, a Christian Hebraist of the sixteenth century,
and the Jew-baiter Eisenmenger (seventeenth century). On such flimsy
foundations were the towers of hatred reared!
The response of the Jewish authorities to such malevolence was.
initially, to recite the objectionable words in an undertone, and. eventually,
to remove them entirely. Machzor Vitry, the twelfth century manual of
France-German halakhic and liturgical practice, which first mentions the
use of Alenu in daily prayers, notes that it should be said silently, the
custom later 'arose to recite the remainder of the text aloud in order to
satisfy Christian inspectors that the Jews were not clandestinely express-
ing objectionable ideas. This practice may have been a reaction to a decree
of the Prussian government of Frederick the Great in 1703, which provided
for inspectors to visit the synagogues in order to check on how Jews recited
the Alenu prayer.
Since the rebirth of the Jewish State, there seems to have been a change
in the traditional attitude of Jews toward their controversial doxology.
New editions of even some Ashkenazic prayerbooks (e.g. the popular
Siddur Rinat Yisrael) have restored the previously censored passage.
Such in brief is the tortured story of the prayer which R. Eleazar of
Worms called, in his thirteenth century Roke 'ach, "the Song of Songs of
the liturgy," and of which Solomon Schechter wrote:
We can easily lecture on the history of this prayer,
and even make a guess about its date and authorship, but
we would certainly fail were we to try to make one
understand what the Kingdom of God on earth really
meant for the saints of Israel, whose life was nothing
else than a preparation for entering into the Kingdom.
The ideal for which so many noble men and women
suffered martyrdom... was the blissful vision of love
triumphant, righteousness triumphant, truth triumphant.
Closely related to the centuries of conflict with the Christian church on
matters of doctrine, was the long and brutal history of persecution of the
Jews in the medieval world. The tragic record of contempt, cruelty,
extortion, expulsion and outright massacre is reflected on many pages of
the Siddur, not only the Ashkenzic version but those of the Sephardim, the
Yemenites, Italian Jews and others. Every Jewish community suffered, in
greater or lesser degree, the fate of a tolerated minority at the mercy of the
May the Lord Be Merciful To Our Brethren
The Whole House of Israel
This is a touching little prayer, recited every Monday and Thursday
morning, for the rescue and deliverance of Jews in distress and in danger
of their lives. Following the chanting of the first segment of the Torah
portion for the week, four brief petitions are recited, each beginning with
the phrase, Y'hi ration, May it be God's will, petitions for the welfare of
Jews generally and Torah scholars in particular. A fifth petition begins,
Acheinu, kol bet Yisrael:
May the Lord be merciful to our brothers of the
House of Israel, wandering over land and sea, who
suffer persecution and torment. May He very soon bring
them relief from distress and deliver them from the
darkness of servitude to the light of freedom.
Even more poignant is the version of this petition in the prayerbook of
the Italian Jews (Machzor B'nei Roma) because it includes a plea also on
behalf of the Marranos, secret- Jews from Spain and Portugal, who had
taken refuge in Italy. That text begins: Acheinu Yisrael va-anusei Yisrael,
Our brothers of the House of Israel and the Marranos of Israel (the Hebrew
word for Marranos is Anusim, literally, "those who have been forced" into
apostasy). The same prayer is recited - in the Italian Rite - on the Shabbat
when the coming of a New Month (Rosh Chodesh) is announced in their
synagogues. We also have record of prayers, now obsolete, which were
recited in Sephardic communities for their fellows imprisoned by the
Inquisition and memorial prayers for those who were burned at the stake
(hashkavut has 'nifim al kiddush ha-Shem).
This study has refrained from citing allusions to historical experiences
which are found in Piyyut literature, that vast treasury of synagogal poetry
composed through the centuries to embellish the older, mandatory prayers,
notably the Shema section and the Amidah. Some of the most vivid
examples of how historical events affected the prayerbook can easily be
found among the thousands of Piyyutim, Selichot, Kinot and other forms
of synagogal poetry. These optional poems differ from one Minhag/Rite
to another - Ashkenzic, Sephardic, Yemenite, Italian, et al. All the Rites
contain references to specific persecutions, expulsions, and massacres.
In the Ashkenazic rite, the frequent theme of the Kinot (elegies for
Tisha b'Av) is the massacre committed by the Crusaders against whole
Jewish communities as they stormed through the Rhineland on their way
to the Holy Land, and the incredible heroism of the Jews which all too often
led to the self-sacrifice of Kiddush Ha-Shem rather than submit to
apostasy. Many of these liturgical poems give specific locales, dates, and
vivid details of the atrocities. A moving echo of the experience of
martyrdom is the dirge recited (as part of the statutory worship service) on
certain special Sabbaths in Ashkenazic synagogues, beginning Av ha-
May the compassionate Father, enthroned on high,
remember with sublime compassion, the good and the
innocent, the holy communities who laid down their
lives for the sanctification of His name (al kiddush ha-
May God Remember the Souls of the Martyrs
The horrors of the crusades led to the creation of the Yizkor memorial
prayers for the dead, which became a prominent feature of the Ashkenazic
Rite on Yom Kippur and, later, in the Polish branch of Ashkenazic Jewry,
also on the Shalosh Regalim (Pesah, Shavuot and Sukkot). This service did
not originate until the First Crusade, at the close of the eleventh century,
when so many influential France-German communities were devastated.
Yizkor (more accurately Hazkaral Neshamot) began as a memorial, not for
individuals but for whole communities, the names of the martyrs being
read in the synagogues from memorial scrolls. We are now witnessing a
similar process, as rituals are evolving to commemorate the Holocaust.
Liturgical Commemorations of the Holocaust
And Israel's Independence Day
A parallel liturgical format is evolving for Yom ha-Atzma'ut, Israel's
Independence Day. Here the Conservative movement has pioneered some
creative original prayers, patterned after the classical liturgy of the Siddur.
Almost 30 years ago, the commission which produced the Weekday
Prayer Book of the Rabbinical Assembly devised a striking prayer to
commemorate both the Holocaust and the rebirth of the Jewish State. They
were not aiming for another responsive reading to be recited in English as
a supplement to the traditional service, but an original Hebrew prayer
composed in a traditional style that would fit organically into the Amidah
itself! They started with the classical formula, Al ha-nissim, the prelude to
the resumes of the Purim and Hanukkah stories discussed above. The
Commission then invited the distinguished Hebrew scholar-poet, the late
Professor Hillel Bavli of the Jewish Theological Seminary, to compose a
resume of the holocaust and the birth of Medinat Yisrael in the style of Bi-
y'mei Matityahu/Bi-y' met Mordekhai v-Esther. Professor Bavli's creative
version of Al hanissim for Yom ha-Atzma'ut has been highly acclaimed
and is now a fixture in prayerbooks of the Conservative movement.
The Conservative movement has similarly updated the traditional
prayer for Tisha b'Av which is inserted into the Amidah as the conclusion
of the normal berakhah designated in the Talmudic
Yerushalayim. The classical text begins:
Nahem, Adomii Elohehut, et avelei Tziyon v-et
avelei Yerushalayim, v-et ha-ir ha-uvelah v-he-
charevuh v-ha-b' zuyah v-ha-shomemah, etc.
Comfort, Lord our God, the mourners of Zion,
and the mourners of Jerusalem, and the city that is in
mourning, laid waste, despised and desolate, etc.
Ever since the rebirth of the Jewish State, and especially since the
reunification of Jerusalem in 1967, even some Orthodox scholars of
Jewish liturgy have called for changes in this text which would reflect the
true contemporary situation of the ancient city which has become the
flourishing capital of the State of Israel. A few have gone so far as to
compose updated versions of Nahem, but only in the Conservative
synagogue has an updated prayer for Tisha b'Av become standard practice.
The 1984 printing of the Weekday Prayer Book of the Rabbinical Assem-
bly (originally issued in 1961) included the revised version, as does the
new Siddur Snz Shalom, published by the Rabbinical Assembly and the
United Synagogue of America in 198.5. The revised text reads:
Nahem, Adonai Elohe'mu, et avelei Tziyon v-et
avelei Yerushalayim v-et ha-ir sheh-chareva hav' ta
("the city which once was so desolate in mourning")...
Rachem, Adonai Eloheinu...al Yerushalayim ir'kha ha-
nivneit me-charban i v-h ishevet mi- shorn' mutah
(Have mercy, Lord our God, for Your city, Jerusa-
lem, rebuilt from destruction and restored from desola-
The new version of Nachem continues (in English
Lord who causes Zion to rejoice at her children's
return, may all who love Jerusalem exult in her, may all
who mourn Jerusalem of old rejoice with her now. etc.
I Remember, God, Jerusalem
One exception will be made in order to include a striking example of
the updating of a medieval piyyut. (This is also the only instance taken from
the liturgy of the High Holy Days.) During the Ne'ilah service of the Day
of Atonement, one of the most beloved poems in the Selihot section is
Ezkeruh Elohim, composed by Rabbi Amittai ben Shefatiah in tenth
century Italy. The poet laments the utter desolation of Jerusalem in his day,
which he contrasts to the flourishing cities of other nations:
We witness the world about us, we see great cities
flourish; and we recall great cities of our past in their
devastation. 'Zion was a wilderness, Jerusalem a desola-
tion. Our sacred House of God so glorious, in which our
fathers sang God's praises in ancient days, was burned to
the ground, etc.
The Rabbinical Assembly Machzor hi- Yamiiii ha-Nora 'im (Prayerbook
for the Days of Awe), published in 1972, prints the original selichah poem
(the first stanza only); but follows it immediately with an updated version.
Instead of the original opening words, Ezkerah Elohim v-ehemayah (I
remember, God, and I am deeply vexed), the parallel version begins,
Ezkerah Elohim v'esm'chah (I remember. God, and I rejoice). The
revised poem is translated by Rabbi Jules Harlow:
We mourn its destruction, and the ruins of Jerusalem of
old. And in gratitude and joy we celebrate Jerusalem of
gold. Behold, says the Lord, I create new heavens and a
new earth. Jerusalem I create to be a joy, her people a
We have examined a number of cases of prayers in the classical Siddur
that echo both positive and negative experiences of the Jewish people. Just
as the classical Siddur has reflected these historical experiences in the past,
so the evolving Siddur of our time has begun to reflect the seminal events
of the current era. We may confidently expect that this process of liturgical
updating will continue, and it should be encouraged. In this way, the crisis
and deliverances that the people Israel passes through will remain fresh in
the consciousness of Jews. That will happen only if these experiences, and
the way Jews respond to them, will become part of the liturgy of the
Synagogue. For the Synagogue (as our greatest modern Hebrew poet,
Bialik, called it) has always served as Bet ha-yotzer I-nishmat ha-umuh,
the potter's shop where the soul of the people is formed.
MIRIAM WEISSBACH AND HER MELODIES FOR
Lee SHAI WEISSBACH
In the decades immediately after World War II, American Jewry
was blessed with a considerable number of gifted educators whose
formative experiences were unique to their time and whose very souls were
tied up with the cause of Jewish learning. These men and women, many
of whom received at least a part of their training in Europe or in Palestine,
had a deep attachment to Hebrew culture, and they saw its dissemination
as a true vocation. Their devotion to Jewish education was no doubt
reenforced by the fact t hat they had witnessed some of the most momentous
events in Jewish history: the mass migration of East European Jews to
America, the flowering of Zionism, the trauma of the Holocaust, the
creation of the State of Israel.
Most of the uniquely qualified and highly talented teachers who
emerged in the post-war era are now either retired or deceased, but they
should be remembered for their tireless efforts in the day schools and
suburban afternoon schools that proliferated throughout the United States
during the 1950s. 60s. and 70s. These teachers were responsible for
spreading a knowledge of modern Hebrew, a familiarity with fundamental
tests, and a love of Jewish culture among thousands and thousands of baby
boom children all over America. Miriam Weissbach was one of these
Born in Norfolk, Virginia, in December, 1909, Miriam was the
first child of Menachem Mendel Frieden and his wife, Esther. In 19 1 I,
Miriam's parents took her to St. Paul, Minnesota, where her father hoped
to establish himself in business. However, when Esther died soon after the
birth of her second child. Miriam's father took his children back to
Norfolk, where he soon remarried. Menachem Mendel would have three
more children with his second wife. Rae. Miriam's father did quite well
as an entrepreneur in Norfolk, first in the candy business and then in
retailing, but as a traditional Jew who had grown up in Lithuania and an
activist who had been won over to the cause of Zionism, he was not
comfortable in the secular environment of the United States. In 192 1 he
sold everything he had and took his family to Palestine.
LEE SHAI WEISSBACH is Professor of History and Chairman of the Department
of History at the University of Louisville. The author wishes to thank Hazzan
Marshall Portnoy and David Silberman for their assistance in preparing for
publication the scores that accompany this article.
For Miriam, who was eleven years old when her family made
aliya, the transition from an upper middle class existence in Virginia to
the primitive conditions of post- World War I Jerusalem was not an easy
one. In Virginia, her parents had owned not only a comfortable house in
Norfolk, but also a summer home at Virginia Beach; in Palestine, the
family's first residence did not even have indoor plumbing. Nonetheless,
Miriam adjusted and in 1928, after her family had moved to Tel Aviv, she
graduated from the Gymnasia Herzliya.
Miriam spent the next four years in the United States. A Hebrew
teaching position took her to New London, Connecticut, and there she also
studied at Connecticut College. Soon after she returned to Eretz Yisrael,
she met her future husband, Maurice Weissbach, a young man who had
grown up in the Jewish community of Alexandria, Egypt, and who had
already spent time in Cuba and the United States before returning to the
Middle East. Miriam and Maurice married in 1935 and settled in Haifa,
where Maurice established a customs clearing service and travel agency.
Their first son, Yehuda, was born in 1936. In 1947. after Maurice returned
from World War II serviceinthe British army, a secondson, Lee Shai, was
In the early years of Israel's statehood, few people had money for
imported goods or for foreign travel and Maurice's business suffered as
a result. For this reason, among others, Miriam and Maurice came to the
United States in 1952. After a year in New York, the family moved to
Cincinnati, where Maurice continued in the travel business and where
Miriam became the first-grade teacher at the newly founded Yavneh Day
School. It was then that her career as a Jewisheducator began to flourish.
Miriam's older son returned to Israel on his own in 1955 and her husband
died in 1964. Her second son married and left home in 1968.
During her more than twenty years in Cincinnati, Miriam
established herself not only as a highly-regarded teacher, but also as an
able administrator. She was one of the mainstays of Yavneh, which has
just celebrated its fortieth anniversary as a community day school, and she
also gave many years of service to the religious school of the Conservative
Adath Israel Congregation and to the Cincinnati Community Hebrew
Schools network. Miriam retired from her duties in Cincinnati in 1974
and soon after returned to Israel. She lived first in Haifa for nearly a
decade, and then at the moshav shitufi of Yodfat, where her older son had
settled and raised a family.
Miriam was in the United States on one of her frequent visits
when the Gulf War broke out in January of 199 1, and she remained in
America with her younger son's family until after the war. She returned
to Israel just in time for Pesach, and her end came only a few weeks later.
After a leisurely stroll around Yodfat on the Shabbat afternoon of April 13, she
passed away quietly on her living room sofa. Born in the first decade of the
twentieth century, she had lived to see the early part of its last.
Music had always played a central role in Miriam Weissbach's life.
She grew up in a home where music was considered important. "My father
had a beautiful voice," Miriam recalled shortly before her death, and she
remembered that he was quite familiar with cantorial music. Before going to
St. Paul in 19 11, Menachem Mendel had been offered a post as hazzan in one
of the synagogues of Norfolk, but, according to Miriam, "since he considered
his music to be a hobby, he refused the position."
Miriam began piano lessons while still a child in Virginia, and she
professed that in her last year of school there, her teachers discovered that she
had a wonderful singing voice. When the Frieden family moved to Palestine
in 192 1, one of its first acquisitions was a piano, so that Miriam could continue
her training. She kept up her music studies and her singing both in Jerusalem
and in Tel Aviv: when the Hebrew University was dedicated in 1925, Miriam
was a part of the Gymnasia Herzliya choir that performed at the ceremony.
During her short period of study in the United States in the late 1920s
and early 30s. Miriam supported herself with her music, as well as with her
Hebrew teaching skills. When she came back to America in 1952, her musical
abilities stood her in good stead once more. She very often employed music
in conjunction with her various teaching responsibilities, first in New York,
and then during her long career in Cincinnati. Miriam taught Hebrew classics
and contemporary folksongs, she introduced her students to liturgical melodies,
both traditional and modern and she organized dozens of musical performances.
She even published two of the "cantatas" she prepared for various school
programs and holiday celebrations; in the latter years of her life, Miriam
collected five or ten dollars in royalties each year. An entire generation of
Cincinnatians still remembers "Mrs. Weissbach" as the person who taught
them the Hebrew songs and Jewish melodies that still remain with them.
After she retired from the classroom and returned to Israel, Miriam
took up teaching piano in earnest. When she was in her late sixties and early
seventies, she often complained that her piano teaching left her little time for
anything else, but she always refused to cut back on the number of students she
would accept. In her late seventies, after she had moved to Yodfat. Miriam
began to concentrate on working with adult piano students, and their recitals
on the moshav became major events in her life.
Throughout the many years Miriam was involved in music education,
she had always shied away from composition, a field in which she had received
no formal training. Nonetheless, in 1990, when she was already a grandmother
of seven in the eightieth year of her life, she finally turned her attention to
writing music. Confident that she still had many years before her, Miriam set
the goal of creating musical settings for selections from each and every one of
the Psalms in the Book of Tehillim. By the time she died, she had composed
only the five pieces whose scores accompany this brief biography. She was
apparently already thinking about a sixth melody, however. When Miriam
closed her eyes for the last time on that Shabbat afternoon in the spring of 1991,
there was a Tanach on the table beside her. It was open to Psalm 116: "shuvi
iHijshi 1 imnuchaichi, ki Adonai gamal alaichi; " "Be at rest, once again, my
soul, for the Lord has been good to you."
Five compositions by Miriam Weissbacli are included a
Section ofrhis issue of the Journal beginning on page 73.
THE BUTTERFLY COMES HOME
By Charles DaviDsc
On a drizzly, cold Thursday morning, October 17,199 1,1 found myself
in a darkened grove of chestnut trees, their black-branched fingers
stretched against a gray sky which peeked through some few wet and
drooping leaves I bent and picked up a knarled, brown walnut and rubbed
its shine with my thumb thinking again how the past 24 years of my life
have been shaped by a chance musical encounter.
I was in Theresienstadt, Czechoslovakia, the dreaded walled city itself,
but would not have been there had it not been for my friends Jerome
Kopinar (who initiated a special musical commission to memorialize the
Holocaust) and Solomon Mendelson (who urged it to completion over the
summer and fall of 1968).
Barely a month before this particular Thursday morning, just after Rosh
Hashanah, Bob Frye, a television producer with Bolthead Productions of
New York had called to invite me to go to Czechoslovakia as a guest of
Vaclav Havel, The Terczin Initiative (an organization of survivors of
European concentration camps), the Jewish Committees in the Czech
Republic, the State Jewish Museum in Prague and the International
Terezin Committee. I was to travel to the prison-city itself with a camera
crew, the international tour choir of The American Boychoir of Princeton,
its teachers and Music Director James Litton, and Mr. Frye and his staff,
all of us to help dedicate the new Jewish Museum in Theresienstadt: This
was the 50th year of its opening as a way-station for Jews on their way to
dismal death at Auschwitz, and its use as a decoy and ruse for the
International Red Cross visit there during World War II.
The American Boy Choir of Princeton, New Jersey would perform my
song cycle "I Never Saw Another Butterfly" (which I had written to
poetry of the children of Terezin), with symphony orchestra in Prague and
in Brno and would also sing at the official opening of the Jewish Museum
in Terezin. I accepted the invitation but with trepidation: It was an honor
which both delighted and for some reason, also frightened me.
Ever since the music had been written, the work has seemed tolivea life
of its own, being performed widely, by all sorts of disparate groups and
without promotional publicity. It had been nurtured by people I had not
previously known, many of them from the Princeton Boy Choir School
HAZZAN CHARLES DAVIDSON of Adath Jeshurun Congregation of Elkins Park.
Pennsylvania, is a well-known composer and frequent contributor to the Journal off
itself: former choirmasters Donald Hansen and John Kuzma, the
exceptional humanitarian and dear friend Steven Howard and now by the
current administrator John Ellis, by a staff of dedicated workers in the
School, all of whom I had met and afterwards loved for their humanity and
for their hope for a better world.
I had lived with the music and the poetry for many years and have always
believed that it expressed my deepest feelings of sorrow at the destruction
wrought upon the Jewish people and other peoples by the inhumanity of
the Nazis and abetted by the apparent disinterest of the world. I had heard
many recordings, been present at scores of performances that always left
me in tears, had been told of thousands of performances by many choirs
around the world, had received hundreds of programs from boychoirs,
public high school choruses and church choirs, had heard of its several
presentations before the Pope at the Vatican, the performances at the
Rotunda in Washington, but I never had thought that I would, at some
point, be forced to confront the reality of the poems and their authors in
the place they last lived before they were murdered by the Nazis.
I didn't know what to expect fromsuch a trip. I was now at the age that
the authors of the poems would have been had they lived: One of the
youthful poets even shared a birthdate with me. The poetry had become
so much a part of my own persona and was so integrated with my music
that, now, in retrospect after my trip, I believe that I expected to confront
my own self in the barracks of Terezin.
I was unable to be at Smetana Hall in Prague on Sunday evening to hear
the Princeton Boy Choir and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra with
James Litton perform "Butterfly" for the first time in Czechoslovakia. I
left Kennedy Airport aboard a Czech Airlines flight and arrived in Prague
in the early morning of Tuesday, October 15 in time to be met and driven
to the Park Hotel in the heart of the city. There a special bronze plaque was
being dedicated. Irony of ironies! The Park Hotel was the present site of
the former "grouping area," where all the Jews of Prague had been forced
to gather before their transport to Terezin.
With some photographers and relatives, I climbed a low retaining wall
and looked down two levels of stairs at three hundred and fifty former
inmates of the camp, standing in bright sunshine, gathered from all over
the world for these three days in Czechoslovakia, now crammed together
on the postage stamp-sized lawn waiting for the official government
speeches, the inevitable band-playing and the unveiling of the bronze
plaque; gathered on the same piece of ground where they had waited,
shivering with fright, fifty years before; at that time waiting to be sent to
God-only-knew where and to what end.
The hotel itsetf is built on the corner of a busy thoroughfare. Cars, buses
and trucks added to the noises of greeting, the calling one to another as
former friends were recognized beneath the whitened hair and thickened
bodies, so very different from the thin, wasted frames of former years. The
sobs and cries forced out by relived memories mingled with horn htasts
and the gunning of engines: Unconcerned and disinterested pedestrians
walkedpast theparksitenotpausingtopeerthrough the scragglyfirtrees.
But I watched, very moved, as the men and women below wandered
through the crowd, peering into faces, searching for the children they had
The ceremonies completed, flowers, yahrzeit candles and Israeli flags
vied for places with one another beneath the dark, bronze plaque, itself
created by a survivor, showing elongated and pathetic figures struggling
toward some unseen but all too obvious oblivion. I was, at the same
moment, involved and yet dispassionate, a participant and yet set apart as
an observer, a feeling that was to be repeated again and again.
Told that I had two hours before another filming session for the
documentary film that would tell of our trip, I spent the time walking in
the old Jewish Quarter, looking at the sidewalk displays on the Charles
Bridge and seeing the famous (infamous?) statue of Jesus in its niche with
other statuary groups on the bridge and reading its inscription Kadosh,
Kadosh, Kadosh, Adonai Tz'vaot appended in bronze around the head. I
learned that the inscription had been paid for by a medieval Jew as a fine
for his "blasphemy" against Jesus. Why, I wondered, is this such a "must
see" item for Jewish tourists? If anything, it reminded me of the tenuous
position Jews held in medieval Europe where Jewish life itself depended
upon the whim of the local rulers, the state of the economy and the good
will of the townspeople.
I left the Charles Bridge and went on to the ancient Jewish graveyard
attached to the Pinsker Shul which had been built in 1535. Centuries
before, in the year 916, the city of Prague had given permission for the
Jewish community to bury their dead on this small plot of land but only
here, nowhere else. As spaces had been filled, the community added three
feet of earth above each coffin and continued layering the graves until a
very high mound was created. The built-up mound and the glacier-like
jut of tomb- stones pointing in all directions make this holy place unique
in the world. Many visitors wandered through the bewildering tumble of
markers. Most of them seemed to be from Scandavian countries, with
some Israelis and some Germans. I was the only person with akippah and
I went from stone to stone saying Kaddish. Many visitors, both Jewish
and Gentile, leave small notes on top of the stones, much, I would believe,
in the manner of kvittles left in crevices of the Wall in Jerusalem.
I found the grave of Rabbi Loew, stood for a while and mourned the
absence of a 20th century Golem who could have defended the Maharal's
Jews in their time of greatest need. I left the cemetery and wandered into
the small museum where, suddenly shaken and apprehensive, I saw some
of the original poems from Terezin, neatly pressed beneath covers of
glass, mute witness to their authors' existence.
I met the boys outside the famous Almeuschul, the "old-new shul."
They were dressed neatly in their traveling outfits of maroon jackets and
dark trousers, standing patiently in rows while quietly waiting for
directions. They were superbly disciplined and throughout the trip
showed uncommon maturity for young boys. It was soon obvious to me
that this self-discipline was absolutely necessary. This touring choir of
boys often finds itself in the most unusual situations and the youngsters
needed the discipline to overcome adversity; much in the manner of the
Terezin children who banded together in the barracks and presented a
common front to the Nazis.
About the American Boy Choir School itself, it is the only boarding
music school for boys in the United States, much like the Vienna Boy
Choir, and the angelic quality of their choir singing is haunting in its
The interior of the Almeuschul is a contrast of stark hues; brilliantly
white walls and dark oaken furniture. High wooden arches soar
overhead, meeting in the center of the small domed chapel, thrust against
thewhite, rough, hewn walls. The central Bimah and Shulhan are adorned
with a silver crown fit for some medieval princess and the worn lectern
of the Hazzan, set just to the right of the diminutive Aron Kodesh seemed
wonderfully beautiful to me, touched and loved by age, hallowed by many
hands. The shul was built in 1270 and remains the oldest extant
synagogue in Europe. While the boys rehearsed and were filmed and
recorded, I stepped down into the depression carved out in the floor at the
base of the Hazzan's lectern Min ha-Meitzar ["Out of the depths have 1
called to Thee"] and quietly davened Minha and Ma'ariv. I felt as if I had
been here and done this many times before. For some reason I felt
I spent the morning ofWednesday, October 16, walking through the old
Jewish sector of Prague again, crossing the Moldau River and walking
through the medieval streets. Jews had been in Prague since Roman times
in 970 and lived comfortably until they were massacred by the Crusaders
in 1096. Many were forcibly baptized, but the community eventually
recovered. I returned to the bus several hours later to begin the journey
I sat in the very last seat as we pulled away from the curb into the traffic
of Prague and had a glimpse of the bronze memorial plaque as the loaded
bus sped past the Park Hotel: I realized with a shudder that wc were
actually retracing the same route of those deported from that place fifty
years ago. I looked out the windows as we passed block after block of
gray buildings. Bob Frye and his assistants Marcy Lefkovitz from New
York and Daniel Bergmann from Czechoslovakia were in quiet
conversation in the front of the bus as I confirmed with a Czech
cameraman near me that there was no other route; there was only one
highway to Theresienstadt; this was, indeed, the very same road taken by
thousands on their way to the death camps.
The rush of air through open windows ruffled the hair of the 25 young
boys sitting in front of me, some sleeping, some looking at the beautiful
farm lands that surrounded us, their teachers reading or catching up on
their sleep. There was a general air of fatigue. They had arrived in Europe
two weeks earlier to prepare for their concerts and it was obvious that all
were tired. Almost as tired, I imagined, as those poor children and adults
who had waited for days at the "gathering center" on the site of the Park
Hotel, waiting to be sent on transport.
We were surrounded with luggage, books, extra clothing and
equipment: How horribly like those earlier bus rides, with children and
teachers so similar to these souls, on this same road, with the same fields
of potatoes and newly turned soil flying by and with the same feelings of
uncertainty about their destination. I felt part of what was happening and
yet apart from it. I promised myself not to forget what it must have been
like to know that the end of the line was Terezin, "the black town now,"
as one of the children's poems so described it.
Thirty-three kilometers north of Prague we slowed and turned to the
right, past the Terezin cemetery and crematorium, now smelling the sharp
odor of manure in the surrounding fields, our eyes suddenly assailed by
the massive yellowish brick walls, with broad, buttressed ramparts, that
suddenly loomed up to confront us. We drove through a massive dark
portal, hearing our exhaust echo hollowly, and we emerged in the town.
Was this Terezin? Truly? I saw stores, wide open streets, a few people
walking, children playing, schools in session. Where was the somber
reality of the place? Where were the black crepe banners and the smells
of death once removed? I was totally unprepared to see a small city with
real people in it, inhabited as indeed it was in 1941 before the Nazis
ordered the small population out to make way for the Jews who would
soon cram the streets, the houses, the barracks by the thousands. I knew
Terezin only from the children's poetry; the small streets of their prose,
the little houses and bunks of their fears: I understood the reality of the
place from the fantasy-quasi-real pictures of a child's imagination.
We drove for several minutes in silence. No one spoke as we continued
toward the center of the town, past the populated areas, toward the town
hall whose unforgettable steeple is found in so many drawings made by the
adult and child artists who died here and at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Opposite
the park, where, as one of the children's poems explained, "a queer old
grand-dad sat," we stopped at the former BOQ of the Russian army
officers until recently stationed in what was now non-Communist
Czechoslovakia. The bus door opened and we got off, each child carrying
I was in the grip of deja VU, seeing in these youngsters other children
who had stepped down from their buses, valises in hand, looking around
for directions: Where do we go? What is this place? Where are my
parents? I began to feel the weight of the place again as if the sight of these
young boys evoked the ghosts of years past. It was true and this was real:
This was Theresienstadt and I was back at the source of the "Butterfly."
We ate that evening in a public school and were given a lecture by a
Czech boy scout on the history of Terezin, its establishment as a garrison
town in the time of the anti- Jewish ruler Maria Theresa (1740-1780) who
expelled the Jews from Bohemia and Moravia in 1744. The Jews of
Prague returned four years later after they promised to pay high taxes.
He explained how the Nazis used Terezin as a "model city" to fool the
international community and the representatives of the Red Cross into
disbelieving the stories and rumors of Jewish genocide. But our boys
knew a great deal about that already, having been taught by their teachers
at The American Boychoir School, Nancy Adair and Alison Hankinson,
for the past half year about the Holocaust and specifically about
Theresienstadt. Indeed, if this trip had the effect on these young singers
that the music and poetry had already worked upon thousands of other
young singers of the work, they would have apersonal understanding and
connection with the Holocaust that wouldremain with them for the rest
of their lives.
I spent an uneasy night waiting for the grey dawn.
After a quick breakfast in the nearby school, we all walked through the
wet streets to an imposing building which had served as a barracks for the
Terezin children. Our boys and Jim Litton would rehearse in its
auditorium. It was in this building that the new museum was to be
established and it would open officially in a few hours. The auditorium
was, in fact, used for performances by the very children who had lived in
this barracks. Following the war, the auditorium had been converted into
a plush theatre for the now-ousted communist officials who had seen
movies and shows there: It was sumptuous with wide, plush chairs rising
sharply in velvet rows toward the rear of the room.
It was a small and perfect hall, now bright with klieg lights and bustling
with camera people from our outfits well as from Czech Television. The
doors were open to the damp, drizzle and cold because of the heat of the
lights and the boys were again rehearsing under the direction of James
Litton and his assistant Craig Dennison. Rain had been falling steadily
and I went up to the first floor to hear the speeches delivered from the
inside of the front foyer of the museum. A cardinal, a rabbi and
government officials, standing on the marble steps inside, were speaking
in Czech to the three hundred and fifty survivors now standing in the park,
umbrellas raised and dripping, coat collars turned up against the cold. I
listened for a while, took photos and then went below to get warm.
I sat in a great comfortable chair, adjusted my camera, ready to
photograph the survivors as they came in, listening to the boys sing, being
stopped, starting again, rehearsing meticulously as they always did.
Suddenly, without warning, as the boys sang the exact words "... only
I never saw another butterfly, " a large, brilliantly blue butterfly, flew into
the room through an outside door, out of 49-degree rainy weather, circled
over the boys' heads as they sang. Still singing, they twisted their heads
to keep the butterfly in view as it circled the stage again and flew around
the outer periphery of the hall. I tried to find it with my camera as did the
TV people but in spite of our efforts it eluded us and finally flew out an
open door. The boys stopped singing and we all looked at one another.
What was a butterfly doing outside in rainy, cold weather to begin with
when it had absolutely no business being there? It was, after all, a cold
and wet October in Czechoslovakia. Bob Frye hugged mc and said that
it was just as well that it had not been captured on film because its
appearance would just not have been believed. Its significance became
more important the longer we thought about its strange appearance. It
was as if something or someone had visited us to bestow a blessing. We
accepted it as such.
The small hall was filled as the boys sang and acted the work,
performing the music as only they have been able to since the work was
commissioned for them in 1968 when they were known as the Columbus
Boy Choir. The audience had text sheets in Czech and in English and I
believe that we all were moved in an extraordinary way. It was an
experience that I shall never forget and for which I will forever be
I had to leave right after the performance in order to catch a flight to
Switzerland and from there to New York. Miraculously, the sun had come
out during the performance and the rain had stopped. It was a beautiful
clear day with blue skies and some few white clouds, the first such day in
a week. While the driver assigned to me waited in his car, I walked to the
grove of chestnut trees that had first greeted me the day before. I bent down
and picked up a dark brown chestnut whose doe's eye had caught my
glance, the dappled sunlight reflecting back from its shiny face. I closed
my hand around it, enjoying the hard, tangible feel and put it in my pocket
to bring home.
I looked around for the last time; viewing the broad, green plaza, the old
church, the Town Hall and the new Jewish Museum, the parked buses that
had brought the survivors from ftague, and I watched those former
inmates of this place, now strolling casually, arm in arm, some in
conversation, others quiet in their reflections as I recited aloud the poem
"On A Sunny Evening," written in 1944 by children in barracks L3 18 and
L417, Ages 10-16:
On a purple sunshot evening under wideflow'ring chestnut trees
upon the threshold full of dust
yesterday the days are all like these
trees flower forth in beauty,
lovely too their very wood all gnarled and old,
that I am half afraid to peer into their crowns of green and gold.
The sun has made a veil of gold so lovely that my body aches,
above the heavens shriek with blue
convinced I've smiled by some mistake.
The world's a-bloom and wants to smile,
I want to fly but where, how high? I want to fly.
If in barbed wire things can bloom, why coukln 't I?
I will not die, I will not die.
A LETTER FROM LITHUANIA
By JerOme Barry
At a meeting with Professor Josef Dorfman of Tel Aviv University in
Israel in 1990, I was invited to participate in the First International Festival
of Jewish Art Music, to be held in Vilnius, Lithuania in the Spring of 1991.
It had to be postponed shortly before its beginning for a number of reasons,
some of them quite obvious. The Festival did take place from April 27 to
May 6, 1992, and I was privileged to participate. The Festival, sponsored
by Tel Aviv University and the Lithuanian Philharmonic, consisted of
chamber, solo and orchestral concerts, as well as symposia and special
Traveling through the Baltic countries was an unforgettable experi-
ence. This was a country, Lithuania, which had suffered under foreign
domination for many centuries, from 1940 by the Soviets, then the
Germans during World War II and until 1990. by the Soviet Union. The
city of Vilnius (Vilna), formerly a part of Poland, had a very large Jewish
population (app. 400.000), 90% of which was decimated by Nazis and
local collaborators during the war. The city, which had boasted of many
of the greatest Jewish scholars, the richest Jewish cultural heritage, called
the "Lithuanian Jerusalem," is now Jewishly a shadow of its former self,
for only 2.500 Jews remain. Most of the survivors emigrated after the war
to Israel and the United States. It had counted 10 synagogues and a school
of rabbis, but the National Socialists destroyed all but one synagogue, built
in 1894. It is said the synagogue was spared because of its beauty. I was
apprehensive how receptive the remnant of Lithuanian Jewry would be to
Jewish musical culture, for so much of it had been suppressed in the
postwar years. I could only imagine what a great civilization had existed
here. I was moved deeply by what I later saw among the survivors of an
All the Festival participants were invited to Paneriai. the killing
grounds of many thousands of our people in the early 1940's, for a special
memorial service. There, the only Jewish member of the Lithuanian
Parliament, Emanuel Zingeris. also the head of the Jewish Museum, gave
a moving eulogy in Yiddish for the murdered men, women and children,
who had been systematically shot and buried here. At the memorial
service, I was approached by the ritual director of the Synagogue to
officiate as their cantor that Sabbath evening. I accepted the ii
JEROME BARRY is a baritone, part-time cantor and arts advocate
aware of its significance.
The Philharmonic arranged for me and my fellow artists to be taken by
bus that evening to the shul. I found the congregation members, mostly
older men, with a sprinkling of adolescent boys, to be very reserved; they
reminded me of the people in my childhood synagogue, most of whom
must have come from this area. By the next day. when I again conducted
services, I found the people much more receptive and spoke to them heart-
to-heart about the great honor I felt leading them in prayer. I invited the
Jewish community to come to my Yiddish concert at the Philharmonic the
next day. Evidently, the word was transmitted throughout the community,
for they attended in very large numbers and the concert hall was full. Many
of them lacked the financial means to buy a ticket to any cultural event and
they were allowed free admission. The editor of the Jewish newspaper
(Jerusalem of Lithuania), Mr. Grigorijus Smoliakovas. had visited me in
the morning and laboriously translated the synopsis of each of my pieces.
I wrote them in German and he translated them into Lithuanian. The radio
announcer read the translations and the effect of the all- Yiddish concert
was quite powerful. My message was one of love and reconciliation and
we all felt it together.
Two days later I was to appear again in the Synagogue on the eve of
Memorial Day for the fallen soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces.
Professor Eli Schleifer, head of the music department for the Hebrew
Union College in Jerusalem, offered to assist me. The lack of piano and a
real stage and the fact that the other cantors scheduled to appear were
unable to come to the festival, placed an added burden on my shoulders.
The "gala cantorial concert" was a perfect opportunity to communicate
this message of love and reconciliation, but the conditions were far from
The day of the concert, it occurred to me that I would have to be as
creative as I had ever been in order for the event to succeed fully. Staying
in my room all afternoon, I devised a program which would hopefully
achieve this effect. More than 50 years had passed since Jews could
practice their religion in complete freedom and I now had the opportunity
to bring this suffering into focus through the soul-searching music of our
people. This music has been a great source of solace to many suffering
generations and could not be lost. I had the awesome responsibility of
communicating elements of a culture which had been neglected for so
many years. It was a source of anxiety for me, but a noble challenge.
When I arrived at the Vilna shul, there was a bustle of activity. The
entire shul was filled to capacity, women leaning over the balcony with
kerchiefs and conservative clothing, men with caps and grey and black
clothes. A feeling of expectancy filled the air. Television cameras,
microphones, radio, photographers were ubiquitous. The atmosphere had
elements of surrealism - the drabness of ancient wooden benches and
prayer stands against the backdrop of modern technology It was almost
as if the cameras were recording for posterity an endangered species. Zvi
Markevich, an elder of the Synagogue, motioned me to start. Admittedly.
I wondered what emotions I would evoke within the people and myself, but
my courage did not fail me. I somehow opened my mouth and spoke
Yiddish more fluently and unrestrained than ever before in my life, with
philosophy, humor and love formy people. The inspiration of the moment.
knowing that this was history, impelled mc to give courage and solace to
my people. I intoned the old folksong "Oifn Pripetshok. " They sang with
mc. at first timidly, then stronger as their memories of long ago were
Jogged. Each verse became a catharsis for all of us. Then I sang a prayer,
invoking God's blessings on the community, reinforcing in my and their
hearts, the joy of lifting off the yoke of freedom of expression. Sensing that
they still might be holding back, I sang another folksong about a little call
tethered, yearning to he free of its shackles (Dona Dona). This Strophic
song, known to many Western Jews, was strange to them: however, my
translation into Lithuanian tickled them and subdued laughter set in. I had
taken some phrases out of my dictionary, such as "Don't worry, everything
will be fine! The day of freedom has come and thing will get better. "They
pot the message.
The memorial service that I conducted with Professor Schleifer had the
inspiration I have always sought in the Synagogue. I felt transported into
another world, a messenger of the word of the Almighty. The entire
experience transcended human logic: it brought into focus a hope for
reconciliation, peace and ultimate rctletnption for the suffering of human-
kind. The great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel alluded to the fact that
10% Of the time our prayers seem to reach the Presence of the Almighty
and we can feel the spark igniting- maybe it is Divine inspiration. The
spark ignited my heart and those o f everyone around me. I no longer saw
faces, but felt a spirit moving into people's hearts. I was told that people
were weeping everywhere. It is a rare privilege to be an instrument for
people to reach an emotional catharsis -I attribute it not to myself, but to
the occasion and the moment in history. Mr. Zingeris embraced and kissed
me, proclaiming that he had never had such a movinp experience in the
shul I felt the same myself.
The one hope I cherish is that one day humankind will commu-
nicate on a deeply sensitive, personal level to soothe the hurt we have
inflicted on each other through greed, hatred and cruelty. The end of the
cold war and the division of Europe present a historic opportunity to start
purifying ourselves through love, empathy and understanding. We must
have the courage and humility to admit our shortcomings and to come
together for the sake of healing and peace. To this, I honestly and truly say
THE HAZZAN -
AS SEEN FROM A SEAT IN THE CONGREGATION
by Julius Blackman
During my professional career as a full-time hazzan (18 years). 1
occasionally wondered how I appeared to my congregation. Oh, I knew
that I had to be in good voice, had to have full command of Nusach
Hatefillah, be it Shabbat, Shalosh Regalim, High Holy Days, or whatever.
Even the mastery of Nusach for weekdays, Shachnrit, Mincha and Maariv
- is a necessity.
Additionally, I was concerned by the challenges of knowing the
cantillations, for Torah, Haftarah, Megillat Esther, Megillat Eicha -
Yamim Not-aim. After all, these were the "tools of the trade" for a hazzan.
You realty couldn't call yourself hazzan if you didn't measure up.
Circumstances impelled me to change careers in mid-life. From being
a full-time hazzan with all that went with it, I became an executive director
for a Jewish communal agency-the Hebrew Free Loan Association of San
Francisco. However, my interest in hazzanut never waned. On the
contrary, I now was able to do what no pulpit hazzan can do - attend
services regularly as a congregant, and daven as an ordinary worshiper, not
just during vacation, but week in and week out.
I went and still go to Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, and
Reconstructionist synagogues; have attended services at a House of Love
and Prayer, Aquarian Minyan, Berkeley Hillel, services at a number of
other college Hillels, and services conducted by gays and lesbians at a gay
synagogue here. I have attended services at the Cantors Assembly
Convention in Los Angeles in 1991 with both men and women cantors
officiating; various types of hasidic services (Shlomo Carlebach comes to
mind), services for military personnel at Vandenberg Air Force Base, and
at Fort Ord, among others, services conducted by "lay cantors."
These experiences have helped shape my own perception as I view our
role as hazzanim for today.
My observations, then, are not an abstract "we should do this, or that,
or the other." Rather, they are a very subjective response to what I have
seen or heard in these nearly 30 years since I Stopped functioning as a full-
time hazzan after those 18 years on pulpits.
First, I want to emphasize that I have been impressed with the high
JULIUS BLACKMAN. a retired Hazzan residing in San Francisco, is one of the founders of
the West Coast Region of the Cantors Assembly
level of hazzanut, and the constant improvement in vocal quality, in
knowledge of Nusach, in the overall musicality of our hazzanim. It is
heartening and a source of real pleasure to hear and participate in these
services. Of course, as the congregation joins in congregational melodies,
I sometimes find myself wishing that a particular setting of a familiar text
would be a melody more appealing to me, or more familiar, but this is a
very subjective reaction.
I do venture a comment on one aspect of the services. I can understand
different melodies-for settings that arc meant to be chanted by or with the
congregation. What I have difficulty with is that many of these melodies
are sung in keys that are out of the vocal range of the average congregant.
Again, as regards congregational involvement: 1 find it disconcerting, to say
the least, to have a hazzan hold a note at the end of a phrase for an extra beat
or two! While this allows the congregation to admire the pear-shaped tone,
it effectively shuts down whole-hearted participation. In the same vein,
the occasional slowing down or speeding up may get variety, but dots little
to encourage congregational participation. After all, the whole point of
congregational singing is to elicit participation of the congregant in prayer.
It is a given that the average congregant has a limited vocal range, and
usually has difficulty with more complex rhythmic patterns. I find many
cases where congregants drop out or scratch around to sing an octave
below the melody pattern as they try to sing along. There should he no
problem, given the musicality of today's hazzanim, for a hazzan to
modulate to a comfortable key when involving the congregation.
I should add here that my own approach to congregational involvement
in singing prayer texts has changed markedly over the years. I grew up
listening 10 and being enthralled by such masters of the cantorial art as
Rosenblatt. Kwartin. Hershman. the Kusevitsky brothers, Oysher, etc.
When I too became a hazzan, I felt that the hazzanic input was what gave
the service that very special timbre, that special flavor. I still feel that way.
However, over the years I have come to realize that a prayer service is not
just a performance, be it a rabbinical sermon or a cantorial recitative.
The basic element in a service is the congregation. Prayers should be
not just "at" or "to" the congregation, but also "with" the congregation. I
remember vividly a conversation I had with Charles Sudock, of blessed
memory, then President of the Cantors Assembly. This was at the Concord
Hotel in the 1950' s. Charlie emphasized his strong feeling that he always
should involve his congregation. Even when he would do a hazzanic
recitative, he would involve them at the beginning in a congregational
melody, then develop the recitative; and finally end by bringing the
congregation in to the conclusion of the prayer. That was his style. Others
may vary, as he agreed, but the basic need to involve the congregation
remained a basic for him as it does for me.
I am aware that there will be differences with this approach. And that
is as it should be in a healthy discussion. But I must emphasize my
strongly-felt conviction that a religious service is just that: a religious
service. In 1953, at one of the annual assembly conventions, I was asked
to present a paper dealing with an "evaluation of a United Synagogue-
sponsored survey of religious services in the Conservative movement."
This survey was conducted by Columbia University researchers. Part of
the survey called "Setting The Tone," reviewed the attitudes of con-
gregants to the religious services.
I quote from my review of that report:
The congregants demand more music. They demand more traditional music and they
want greater variety of musical selections. We can interpret this in only one way The
congregants want a musical service that contains the moving interpretations of the
'Sheliach Tzibbur"the hazzan; they want a musical servie in which they may participate
via congregational singing; and they want a musical service (ideally) that will include
choral selections in the great tradition of synagogue music.
The keynote speaker at that 1951 conference was our revered Max
Wohlberg. In rereading his remarks I was fascinated at how timely even
for today were his sage observations.
He pointed to the "past 100 years" as being "the golden era of
hazzanut." A little later in his talk he notes some "regrettable results of the
period of virtuosity" that he called "theatricality and exhibitionism." with
"a frustrating and degenerating influence on., colleagues and a disturbing
effect on the congregations." He added "another regrettable result of the
period of virtuosity was the weakening of the choir in the synagogue."
In touching on the evolution of synagogue services he pointed out that
"experience has shown that under the guidance of a competent musician
such [congregational] singing can become a source of beauty and inspira-
tion; minus this guidance it is bedlam and [musical] anarchy. Here again
the cantor is needed."
My observations had to do not only with the role of the hazzan as a
Sheliach Tzibbur, but of how I see his/her rote within the congregation, and
in the community. As stated, the hazzan is a Sheliach Tzibbur. But in my
view, the hazzan is and should be much, much more. Put another way, the
Sheliach Tzibbur shouted expand his/her role beyond just the pulpit.
To me the very nature of the role of the hazzan is tied up with what
should be his/her status ideally as the authority as regards Jewish music for
the congregation and the community. This includes a knowledge of the
evolution of the hazzan through the centuries; a knowledge of Yiddish,
Hebrew, Ladino, folk and art songs. That is a big order; if not as yet
attained, it's worth striving to reach. It is also good to see the Assembly
moving to have some impact on the music of the Camps Ramah. Too often
these camps produce hip melodies far removed from Sabbath or festival
Nusach for their services, though the camp sing-alongs are undoubtedly
lively and energetic.
I recall having attended congregational sing-along programs where the
selections were dominated by popular American folk songs and show
tunes to the absolute exclusion of Jewish songs. Sing-alongs are a great
idea, and hazzanim should work hard to enable their congregants to renew
their familiarity with or discover Oif" n Pripitchok, Tumbalalaika, Am
Yisrael Chai. Al Shlosha D 'varim, Have Yakir Li. V'chol Maaminim.
I Unci Ma Tov Tozhinkes, etc.
The hazzan should be involved in the rituals of our religious expres-
I have witnessed Shabhat services where the Torah is taken out and
handed to the Rabbi or to a congregant, while the hazzan chants the Shma.
Ecliad and Gadlu. That dramatic raising up of the Torah always has been
part of the function of the hazzan and should remain so.
Similarly, with the always compelling and dramatic Hineni -with the
hazzan chanting that moving introductory to the High Holy Day Musaf
service. I know there are the proverbial " mixed feelings" about the hazzan
entering from the rear of the sanctuary as this is chanted. Some contend
this kind of theatre is in contradiction to the humility which is the pervasive
theme of this expressive prayer.
On the other hand, when it is done with the essential Kavanah and with
humility, this prayer sets amovinp. stirring tone for the Musaf prayers that
follow. As a matter of fact, and I am sure many harzanim would be
somewhat less than enthusiastic about this - I think a dramatic expression
of the Hineni would have: A) the Rabbi give a brief explanation of the
history, meaning and content of the prayer; B) the hazzan chanting the first
five or six lines; then. C) as the hazzan continues mezza voce, the Rabbi
reads the translations, followed by D) the hazzan concluding the prayer in
full voice and fervor leading directly to the always touching special
Reader's Kaddish before Musaf. There is nothing wrong with including
drama to enhance and give meaning to prayer. Witness the Levites as they
led prayers in the days of the Temple.
The function of the hazzan in ritual should extend also to the final
benediction, with Rabbi and hazzan providing the final Yevarech'cha
antiphonally in Hebrew and English.
Similarly for Bur /But Mitzvah celebrations and confirmation exer-
cises. The hazzan should be involved in the ritual. I have written an
antiphonal Bruchim Ha ha mi (for confirmation) or Baruch Habah for a Bar
Mitzvah (Bruchah Habaah for a Bat M itzvah) just before the celebrants arc
called up or just after. A special Mi Shebeirach, after the Bar/Bat Mitzvah
has chanted the Haftarah and appropriate blessings, also adds a special
flavor to these rituals and involves the hazzan in the ritual of this most
meaningful "rite of passage.' Similarly, a Mi Shebeiruch blessing of
confirmands again would enhance that service, and bring the hazzan into
that ritual of passage.
It would help dramatize the hazzan' s special function if he/she would
chant the Sh irai ayamon hal ihirah, and/or Asemt Hudibrot when
that portion is read. Each of these is a dramatic portrayal; the congregation
rises, there is a special focus. What better time to assure that these
significant words receive the best performance and what better way 10
dramatize the role of the Sheliach Tzibbur ?!
The Shofur Service is a dramatic and significant moment in the High
Holy Days services. Too often, in the interest of "saving time." moving
prayers are omitted. Lamnatzeach Livnei Korach and Min Hametzr come
to mind. And I recall being moved as the cantor intoned the Tekiah-
Shevarim-Teruah before each blowing of the Shofar.
Lately, I have noted more and more rabbis seem to take this over and
with all due respect, a) chanting is the special role of the hazzan. and b)
too often the rabbi's voice or lack of musicality fails to give proper flavor
to this ritual.
I would urge that hazzanim help develop Jewish Music Councils
within theirsynagogues. These councils would be involved in planning for
concerts of Jewish music, liturgical, folk and art songs, both on adult and
youth levels. In turn, these music councils would involve persons
interested in Jewish music and help create and expand an audience. They
also can encourage involvement of Jewish professional musicians on what
their tradition has to offer. Ideally, these councils can help encourage
composers to write in what some might call "the Jewish tradition." though
obviously that phrase is open 10 varied kinds of interpretation. However
Prokofieff s "Overture on Hebrew Themes," Achron' s "HebrewMelody,"
Bloch's Baal Shem Suite - Bernstein's "Jeremiah Symphony" - Ravel's
Kuddish- all point to positive meaningful advances in that "Jewish music
Hazzanim can initiate and/or participate in musical dialogues with
members of other faiths, sharing our various music cultures (liturgical,
folk, art) to widen the areas of mutual understanding. A program where
groups of different religious backgrounds share their music and even
perform together can bind communities in ways which words simply
cannot. Moreover, Jewish participants in such programs often discover
how much they really do love Jewish music!
Hazzanim should attempt to develop "Scholar-in-Residence" pro-
grams utilizing hazzanim. Such programs could develop illustrated
lectures on music of the liturgy - Nusach Hatefillah through the Jewish
year - folk and art songs-discussion and illustration of liturgical settings
(this could he an ideal way to present great settings of prayers that too often
are omitted from today's services -RozoD' Shabbosor Atah Hivdalta
come to mind. Too often the effort to streamline services leads to
elimination of such prayers, either in part or in total
Hazzanic "scholars-in-residence" can help draw attention to this rich
heritage that otherwise may fade from memory-and at the same time give
the hazzan the opportunity to give expression to these; and at the same time
to stir in the minds of those attending a greater awareness of the rich
heritage that has suffused our liturgy. These scholar-in-residence week-
ends can involve some knowledgeable retired hazzanim who could add
much; their experience and know-how would enhance a weekend - and
enhance the stature of the pulpit hazzan as well, and would enable the
community to benefit from the treasure trove ofexperience and knowledge
these hazzanim have accumulated over the years.
I have previously indicated my growing admiration for the vocal and
musical qualities of this generation of hazzanim. I must touch on one
aspect, however, which I find troubling. Ironically, some of what I find
unsettling is due to the very virtuosity of the presentations. This was
dramatized for me at a master class session on hazzanic techniques, which
The Hazzan-presenter gave a magnificent presentation of various
coloratura techniques. He then encouraged and guided several younger
hazzanim in presenting their own interpretations of various prayers. What
struck me at the session was that so much of that session had been devoted
to the various coloratura styles that there was no time to stress emphasis
on the words. Yet to me the entire meaning of the prayer, the ebb and flow,
the development and grandeur of a liturgical setting is bound up entirely
in the meaning of those eloquent and fervent words. The coloratura style
may be used to emphasize, to underscore, to give more meaning-not, in
my view, to serve as an exercise in vocal agility, no matter how pear-
shaped the tone, or how agile and flexible the delivery. At one time, it could
be assumed that hazzanim possessed an intimate, lifelong understanding
of the nuances of the prayer texts. Today, however, this may not be so true.
with hazzanim having grown up in a far more secular culture. We must
never lose sight of the meanings of the icfillot, which lie at the heart of what
we stand for as hazzanim.
As we approach the 21st century there is a real potential for a
tremendous flowering of hazzanut, but our profession calls on us in this day
and age to fulfill more than the single dimension of being a performing
artist. Our roles as Shlichei Tzibbur for this generation and succeeding
generations challenge us to much more.
We should develop or redevelop choirs - there is an alarmingly low
level of synagogue choirs. We need to develop Jr. hazzanim - and junior
I recall one year when I had a 40-voice volunteer choir. For the Neilah
service, I had that choir sit in the congregation, while my junior hazzanim
(10 voices) assisted mc with that final service on Yom Kipur. I had a fine
volunteer choir; but it was the clear young voices of the children that
evoked the rhapsodic enthusiastic response from the congregants. Those
fresh, young voices, singing the traditional responses to the Neilah
Kaddish and Avot -joining in M' chalkel Cahayim and Piach Lain! Shaar
and Enkat M's aide cha evoked a heart-warming response; and added more
than just symbolic meaning to those ancient, yet appropriate, cadences that
are a part of our liturgical heritage.
The previous generations of hazzanim had an audience that understood
and responded to the Rosenblatts, the Hershmans. the Kwartins. the
Ganchoffs. Wc need to train, to cultivate, to build again for our time, a
congregation that can appreciate and respond to the great tradition of
hazzanut and of Jewish music in all its beauty.
From my seat in the congregation, or at a synagogue concert, or
Assembly concert. I have heard and reveled in some magnificent presen-
tations. I look forward with keen anticipation to the expanding role and
growing recognition of our hazzanim as true Shlichei Tzibbur in every
phase of synagogue musical expression, be it liturgy, folk and art song,
cantillation. or whatever -ken Yehi Ratzon.
REPORT OF THE EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT
by Samuel ROSENBAUM
May 12, 1992
By now you must all have had an opportunity to become familiar with
the Souvenir Book which is being distributed at our concerts. In addition
to the concert programs, and the fine collection of ads — for which we are
truly grateful to the hard-working men and women of the Southern Region
and their friends in the community -- you may have noticed a letter from
Nathan Lam and myself welcoming our guests and inviting their full
participation in our Convention.
If you. like most people, skipped over that opening page, let me call
your attention to two short paragraphs in that letter around which I would
like to weave my report to you today.
"We are meeting for the first time in this beautiful community as part
of an ongoing effort to widen our national scope and service and to
acquaint you with our founding goal of preparing a young generation of
hazzanim to serve the ever-widening needs of the American congregation
as shlikhey tabbur, as pastors, as counselors, as teachers, and as the
guardians of our sacred musical heritage.
"Our role, as we approach the 2 1 st century, is to impart to our younger
hazzanim the rich Jewish culture of the past that has bound us together as
a people and to equip them with the techniques that will enable then to
transmit the essence of Yiddishkayt to their congregations."
That is the heart of what the Cantors Assembly is all about; and that is
what I want to talk you about, particularly to you, our younger members.
About the duty we have to transmit the essence of Yiddishkayt to the
congregations you will be serving well into the 2 1st century.
Nate has already spoken enthusiastically and exuberantly of the
progress we have made as an organization and of his hopes for the future
for continuing and enlarging our role, our influence and our visibility; and
it needs no commentary from me. His leadership and the cooperation he
has elicited from the men and women in the ranks has been dynamic,
exciting, innovative, vigorous and boldly creative.
And we must be truly grateful for it.
SAM ROSENBAUM is Executive Vice President of the Cantors Assembly.
But, in the interim between the toast and the wine, should wc not give
thought to the future? Should we not be thinking of and planning for how
the individual hazzan will need to deal with the explosion of continuing
change in the world in which most of OUT younger mcmbsrs will he living
and serving? How will the issues of world politics, world ecology, world
economy, of the growing pervasive influence of the media, the rise of
evangelism, not only in the Bible Belt, but in the Catholic Church as well,
and in the nco-hasidism that springs from Eastern Parkway and seeks to
envelop the world — this world and the world to come — how will this
affect us and our successors'? And what of the dramatic changes in our own
lives which the new electronic coniputcradvances are sure to bring?
That they all will impact on the coming generation is a certainty. What
wc need to consider is how this impact will affect the altitudes of Jews,
to their family life, to their attitudes toward the synagogue, toward prayer,
toward the need for prayer, toward their faith and toward their sense of
These social revolutions have already manifested themselves in our
daily lives and it is not within our power, nor within the powcrof any single
person or institution or nation to stop them. But that does not relieve us of
the responsibility to try to deal with them.
What are the techniques, about which Nate and I spoke so bravely in
our letter of welcome? What are the techniques that we can develop, or
what are the already existing techniques that we could enhance, with which
we can prepare ourselves to assure the continuity of the traditions we have
inherited and which wc hold dear?
The officers have talked among themselves with individual members
of our Long Range Planning Committee and with many of the members of
the Executive Council about what we might be doing to prepare the
membership for the challenges of the future.
W c are not without experience in dealing with change. Since our
founding in 1947 we have succeeded in making the transition from the
primarily Orthodox-oriented cantoratc of the pre- World War II days to the
Conservative cantorate. even in the face of the attempts of individuals in
our Movement to put a damper on the emerging role and on the persona of
We learned the hard way to deal with the student revolution of the 60' s
and 70' s and the resulting loss of faith and respect on the part of young
people for tradition, for anyone over 30, for established traditions and
institutions and for parents.
We struggled through the thankfully short-lived rock era in synagogue
music; and we are gradually learning to perceive and to act to control the
long-term damage to Hazzanut and to the tone and purpose of a prayer
service which the contemporary neo-Hasidic revival has wrought. We
have fought and won three major legal battles in the Federal courts which
established the now undisputed principle that a Hazzan is indeed a
clergyman in the eyes of the agencies of our government. From these court
victories flowed the benefits of parsonage, social security and special
clergy status from Selective Service.
At the same time, our programs of publications, concerts and conven-
tions have cast a new light on the music of the Synagogue and the status
and stature of the Hazzan.
And while we have hardly reached the millennium, these are some of
the challenges and successes that have brought us with renewed vigor to
this 45th anniversary.
But, let us always keep in mind that all of this has been accomplished
primarily on the shoulders of our first and second generation of leaders and
members. And now, as the third generation moves ahead to assume
leadership in the Assembly, as it should, we must not forget neither the debt
we owe our predecessors, nor the duty to build on and to strengthen the
work they have done; to honor it and to uphold it.
We are not required to be clones of the past, but we are committed to
meet the future with the same dedication and mesirat nefesh as they did.
Younger members will surely face different congregations and different
challenges, and hopefully, they will have the courage and the wit to meet
them in a manner best-suited to their needs, while keeping in mind that they
bear the same responsibility as did their elders: to hold firm to the authentic
Hazzanic tradition, to enhance and enlarge it and to pass it on to the
generations that will follow. Having said all that, let me "go back to the
future," to borrow a phrase from the movies.
It seems to me that the greatest threats to the continuity of Hazzanut as
a viable and potent force in Jewish life, at least for the near future, are (1)
the recession. (2) the shortage of well-trained, confident and competent
hazzanim and (3) the fraying of the bond of love and yearning for the
Yiddishkayt of the 500-year European Jewish experience;for its ambience,
for its memories, for its learning, for its faith and for its Jews who prayed
three times a day as regularly as they ate and siept — whether they were
talmidey hakhamim, or unlettered cimcimmldm.
All three, economics, shortage and alienation from the past have led all
too many congregations to do without a professional hazzan, whenever
one of these factors could be used as an excuse. Even before the recession
hit with full impact, many congregations were forced to make do without
a hazzan because they could not find one to suit their needs, in spite of the
heroic attempts of the Placement Committee to convince them that doing
without a hazzan would do the congregation more harm in the long run.
than having a hazzan with a modest voice but who was authentic, cared
about Jewish life and committed to work hard in their service.
It is my feeling that this damage to the synagogue structure is almost
irreversible, even if and when the recession passes. When you get
accustomed to doing without something because you cannot afford it. even
when finances improve, the tendency is to continue to do without a hazzan
and to spend the increased resources on somcfhinp new on the agenda.
1 cannot guarantee that what I am going to suggest to you will solve all
the problems that may arise, but I can guarantee that if we do not reconsider
and rearrange our priorities, we most assuredly will fail. What I suggest
is not revolutionary, nor new. nor in conflict with halakha or hazzanic
tradition. My suggestions come from my own experience and from the
cumulative experience of watching and listening to how the most success=
ful, the most respected and the most dedicated colleagues I have known
during the last 35 years have interpreted and practiced their calling as
The first and most important quality which anyone who hopes to lead
must have or develop is Presence. The ability to convey the sense that they
know what they are about and know where they want to lead their
followers. This is not arrogance but confidence. And confidence is what
the hazzan must have and demonstrate by his or her demeanor to lead with
authority. Presence is identified by the way you stand at the bimah, by the
way you perform your job. by the way you enter a room.
How does one acquire presence?
Those hazzanim of whom I spoke have had that sense of Presence. You
can tell it the moment you meet them. Some people are just born with it.
but I think it may be acquired and I would like to suggest how you might
go about it.
First, by establishing your pcrsonhood as a hazzan: You must make it
known and felt that as an able hazzan you have the right and duty to present
yourself as a gifted, highly-trained and developed artist. If not pursued to
excess, this is not ego but self-respect. It is we who must define our own
role and not permit others to define it for us. This requires ability, tact and
the fine art of being able to communicate this to the congregation without
Second, you must try to make full use of your Jewish knowledge and
background, not only in davening and cantillation, but in every sphere of
Jewish learning in which you have some knowledge and expertise. If you
do not have such knowledge or expertise that extends into the broad areas
of Jewish culture, it is up to you to you to acquire it. You cannot hope to
impress a sophisticated congregation to honor and to look up to a person
with a limited general and Jewish background and education.
There are a number of public forums in every Jewish community that
will be glad to have you demonstrate your knowledge; and the
congregation and general community will come to respect you for this.
above and beyond the respect you earn as a shaliah tzibbur. Such a
demonstration can go a long way to equalize the spheres of influence
between a hazzan and a rabbi.
Now, I am not seeking to incite a battle for power between hazzan
and rabbi. Thankfully, that plague has faded considerably in the last years:
but for too long many of us have hidden our extra-synagogual talents in
fear of being perceived by the rabbi and the congregation as an attempt at
a power play. Again, tact and the vital skills of communication are a must.
Can it be done'? I can name you at least two dozen colleagues who
have widened the horizons of their careers without damage to the relation-
ship between themselves and their rabbis. Widening the hazzan' s sphere
of activity does not require encroachment on any other staff member's
sphere of influence or responsibility. It is adding to the pool of knowledge,
expertise and artistry which you are making to the community.
Third, many of us have a great interest and knowledge in other music
than the music of the synagogue. You can widen your visibility in the
general community by making contact with whatever musical forces and
institutions exist in the community: the symphony orchestra, the local
opera company, the local chorus (work on a campaign, become a member
of a committee, or of the board.) If there is a music school or a college or
university in your community with a music department, make contact with
them. They all have choruses, orchestras, string quartets and voice
All too often, hazzanim are held back from doing a major Jewish work
of quality because of the lack of funds with which to engage the personnel.
School forces are most happy to join you in such presentations at a
minimum cost, if any. My own relationship with the Eastman School has
provided me with musical forces, large and small as needed, for over thirty
years; to the satisfaction and the pleasure of my congregation, the school
and the community.
A few years ago the Cantors Assembly gave a Kavod Award to the
Eastman School for just such unusual cooperation. The President of the
School displays it proudly in his office to this day and remained supportive
through the years of any musical project in which we could cooperate.
Look around. See how many musical organizations in your commu-
nity, to say nothing of Jewish organizations, are crying out for volunteers.
And don't be afraid of getting involved with your local Jewish Federation.
They have events and projects which can use your talents and expertise.
But you cannot stand back and wait to be recognized You must make the
contact with an idea, or a plan to offer, which will serve their purposes and
In my own community I have been a Federation campaign worker for
20 years. I sit on the allocations committee, take cards and call on
prospective contributors, many of them my own members. It is a good
feeling to be on the other side of the bargaining table and helps equalize
the balance of power between me and the layman I am soliciting.
More and more colleges and universities offer a wide selection of
courses in every subject imaginable to the general community in one kind
of adult study program or another. Regular study is a mitzvah often
neglected. It is a discipline which should be encouraged and pursued.
It would seem to me that hazzanim might enroll in courses in music
theory, poetry, literary analysis, since we deal constantly with prayer and
poetry. Most of us could benefit from courses in public speaking, in
computer skills, in education, in general psychology, pastoral psychology
and in child development, to say nothing of Torah study. If your university
or college has a Judaica department, get to know the chairperson, either as
a student or as a possible part-time faculty member. Knowledgeable
teachers of Jewish studies arc not easy to come by. especially in commu-
nities outside of the larger metropolitan areas.
Teaching and hazzanut are two sides of the same coin. Both seek to
inculcate worthwhile values in the student. It would certainly not harm
your standing in the community to teach Judaica on the college level.
Cantors Institute graduates, in particular, have credentials which could
win them such an appointment.
One caution. You do not spring this news on acongrcgationcold. Your
arrangements with any outside-of-the-synagogue institution or organiza-
tion, whether for pay or as a volunteer, must be made carefully, in advance,
be well-prepared and must be introduced to the officers of your congrega-
tion with a well-thought-out proposal which shows why your acceptance
of such a job or position would benefit everyone concerned.
And most important, you must take greatpains to assure the congrega
tion that such an outside obligation would not interfere with your respon-
sibilities to your synagogue. Those must come first.
Even if I could, I would not involve myself in such an obligation during
the first year or two in a new position. That time should be spent proving
yourself to your congregation, to making them feel that they chose wisely
when they called you to serve them.
There is one more area in which I think a hazzan could extend the
meaning of his shlihut, his hazzanut. And that is volunteer work in Senior
Centers, homes for the aged, hostels for terminally ill, cancer wards and the
like. Places where men and women, too old or too sick to take care of
themselves, are relegated to, and are all too often forgotten.
I am indebted to Edmond Kulp and to Jack Chomsky who spoke on
the subject of "Wider Horizons for the Hazzan," at our 35th annual
convention, on Monday May 3rd. 1982, 10 years ago almost to the day.
Edmond Kulp told of how rewarding and uplifting his volunteer work
was to him. to say nothing of the support and pleasure he gave to a
community in which more than 40% of the population was over the age of
60; the national average at that time was 12.4% He was led to working with
this segment of the population by earlier work he had done as part of the
Brookdale program, while he was a student of the Cantors Institute.
There was much to do in that setting. Regular visits to hospitals,
nursing homes, and the like, during which he got to know the residents or
patients, singing for them and with them, arranging Sedarim, making
regular visits each erev Shabbes. at which time he would gather the Jewish
residents, light the Sabbath candles with them, make Kiddush and share
some hallah. Sounds simple when put that way. but Kulp spoke movingly
of the many different people, at the end of their rope and neglected by their
families, whose spirits were lifted.
He told of instituting a program of Bar-Bat Mitzvah for the elderly. His
first group consisted of 15 students, all over 85. Three were restricted to
wheel chairs. 3 were women who had enjoyed long marriages, raised
children and married them off. and after the death of a husband found
themselves in the home. One woman was 90 years old. Most of them knew
no Hebrew; or had forgotten what they had once known. With the aid of
some USY students he set up a tutorial program to provide a primary
After six months they held a Bar-Bat Mitzvah service at one of the
local synagogues in which the 13 residents participated as a group, singing
the brakhot over the Torah, the Shema, En Keloheynu and Adon Olam. Not
much in our eyes, but so meaningful to them. He is now directing an
ongoing weekly music program at a new residential facility, and has
established a Bar-Bat Mitzvah program in a day-care center for the elderly,
Such a program is light years away from the perfunctory. "Hello-
Goodbye" visits most clergy make in hospitals or in houses of mourning.
Just consider what a difference he has made in the lives of almost half of
his community; without fanfare and without seeking praise or approval.
He does what he does only to know in his own heart that he is. in a small
way. giving back some of the care and attention he got as a child from his
Jack Chomsky, too, spoke movingly of a similarexperience,but in a
different setting. He points out with poignant examples, the value of the
hazzan as a music therapist. He learned first hand from that experience that
the music of the hazzan has a mystical quality about it; that there is
something in haraanut which transcends the spoken word, that it enhances
our ability to touch human emotions.
He. too. had his first experience in this kind of volunteerism as astudent
of the Cantors Institute.
During the first few visits he limited himself to what he knew best,
music. So he sang for them and led them in a few songs each time he came.
After a bit. he decided that he needed to feel closer to them, so that they
would be more secure in his presence. He began by making it a practice
to shake hands with each resident every time he visited them. He found,
in that way. that touc hing. physically, is a great form of therapy. Not being
a trained therapist he could only guess, correctly it would seem, that
touching a patient in a friendly manner, convinces him or her that they are.
for the moment, normal human beings engaged in a normal social experi-
ence. And this served to create a physical as well as a spiritual bond
between patient and "therapist."
He urged us all, at that time.to explore the infinite possibilities of rnusic
as therapy. His most moving experience was in the cancer wards of several
hospitals. It is not easy to be friendly or sociable with cancer patients.
Their anger and frustration make it difficult to communicate with them.
But he. nevertheless, tried singing forcachpatient in hisorherroom. Some
responded positively, others refused to listen. After a while, he and his
other student colleagues managed to break down the wall of anger and the
patients became positively involved.
Not in all cases did they succeed, but they learned to understand and to
accept the reasons for their failure. Yet they did not give up and continued
to make every effort, aware of the reasons for the refusal of the patient to
participate, but learning all the more deeply how important this therapy
was to those who still wanted to be helped.
He suggested that it would be worthwhile for colleagues to study
music-therapy to help them in their pastoral duties.
I agree wholeheartedly. And, I ask you, what, if not music therapy, was
the power of the hazzan to elicit tears and sobs from the women's gallery
in the old shul when he would chant a particularly emotional tefillah which
the worshipper sensed as being personally relevant. Many of them could
not read or understand the Hebrew, but they responded to the urgency of
the harzan's prayer and allowed themselves the release which tears bring.
Not knowing the literal meaning of Sh'ma Koleynu, the hazzan's chant
nevertheless, led them, somehow, to remind them that their own lives were
ebbing away. And so, the hazzan's voiced prayer touched their souls and
they were comforted in the knowledge that someone was petitioning the
Almighty in their behalf.
Why did our grandmothers and grandfathers, as far from sin as the
North pole is from the South pole, identify with Umpiney Hataeynu?
Somehow, they sensed that the hazzan was begging forgiveness for them
for some error or omission in the way they performed or did not perform
a certain mitzvah. and so they cried, and in crying confessed, and in
confessing were comforted.
To sum up briefly what I have been saying, any hazzan who permits
himself or herself to remain in a narrow valley of specialization in the days
ahead, doing just what the contract calls for and no more, or finds himself
or herself operating only as a functionary, a mechanic, is living in a self-
imposed isolation. To a great extent we construct our own self-definition.
Many of us could have a lot more leeway in how we function than we
The only way for a hazzan of the next century to earn the respect and
approval he or she needs to remain viable is to be prepared to meet the ever-
changing and ever-broadening scope of the hazzan's concern and activity;
the hazzan needs to break out of self-defined isolation and to think through
possibilities which they may not have allowed themselves to consider.
We cannot, in the future, restrict our conception of oursetves as singers
of sacred songs, alone.
The ultimate purpose of Judaism is more than prayer alone. It is much
more than that. The ultimate purpose of Judaism is to teach humankind to
deal with its humanity. Human mortality and the short span between birth
and death are not easy concepts to accept. To help teach that vital
understanding. Judaism has accumulated a sacred literature, the insights
and wisdom of centuries; a set of mitzvot/action symbols and a mystical
dialogue between us and God, In which we confess the distance between
what we are and what wc want to be.
And perhaps our most unique heritage is our unique history. Wc arc an
historic people that lives intoxicated with a sense of history; a people that
has been shaped by history as much as it has helped to shape history. That
history has endowed us with a culture rich in art, philosophy, literature,
music and folklore. Varied, multi-hued, exotic and naive, beautiful and
ugly, complex and simple, gathered from every corner of the world, and
the sum total of the interaction of all of these facets of our heritage is the
Jewish People itself, of yesterday, today and for all eternity.
These are the treasures into which we must dip if we arc to be able to
make of Judaism a living heritage for ourselves and our congregations,
with our talents, our minds, and our hearts.
If wc fail to make it meaningful to the next generation, if we do not
expand our roles to bring all of Yiddishkayt under the w ings of our concern,
others will do it in their own way, and we will remain in the valley of our
I realize that for many years the Cantors Assembly has worked very
hard to build an image of the hazzan as a spiritual leader, as a Hazzan-
Minister. No one can deny that this stance was crucial in raising the status
of the hazzan in the American Jewish community. What I am suggesting
may seem at first to go counter to that stance, but that is not so. When the
hazzan. who has been developing as a sacred artist of the Jewish people
since the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, becomes inv olved
in teaching or building a post-Holocaust Jewish religious, cultural and
artistic life, that to me is true spiritual leadership.
Furthermore, it is that which will give the hazzan the place due him and
the influence due him in Jewish life.
You understand. I am sures, that by the foregoing I am in no way
denigrating our role as shaliah tzfoburand as hazzan-artist. That is first
on our agenda, but it should not become the only item on our agenda.
Hazzanut, as we have seen over our 45 years and beyond is an evolving
profession, responding to thechanging needs of the time. If it is tocontinuc
survive, hazzanut. like H alakha, must evolve if it is to he viable.
There may be risks in doing some of the things about which I have
spoken. There may be some who simply will not or cannot accept such
concepts, but progress always involves change and risk.
I am comforted, however by the advice of that distinguished American
philosopher. Yogi Berra. who taught: "You can't steal second with one
foot on first base."
If the vision that I have proposed seems like an impossible dream; if the
future seems bleak and uncertain, we need only to look back and see how
far we have come on a vision. That vision carried us from a day in April
1947 when 10 hazzanim reached for a vision that inspired a fragmented
and fearfully small group of professionals to grow to become the largest,
the most prestigious, the most effective international organization of
hazzanim in our history.
Now, we too, stand at the doorway to a new century and a new era.
Having survived sacrifice and success, disappointment and victory, I have
faith that strengthened and united, we too, will move hazzanut into a new
era of progress and achievement.
We cannot allow new challenges to frighten us. We are part of a people
that has cherished a vision of a Messiah, who many secretly believe will
never come. Yet we have continued to dream and continued to cherish that
vision and to survive. Even after the greatest tragedy humankind has ever
So shall we.
by Solomon mendelson
This assignment, which seems to have become a hazakah of mine over
the past several years, grows more difficult. With the passing years the
names grow more and more familiar, more and more personally painful,
and make me increasingly aware of the diminishing ranks upon w hose-
shoulders and energy, we. all together, have built the largest and most
influential cantonal organization in the world.
What makes the task even more difficult is the extraordinarily large
number of Colleagues we mourn today. This year they number eleven the
largest number in one year in our 45-year history.
Whether by pure chance or whether you see in it the hand of the
Almighty carrying out some mystical grand plan, these eleven men — each
in his own way unique, talented, dedicated and beloved — when you
considerthem as a group, a havurah, are as homogeneous a cluster as one
Years ago. each one of them stood, when they were choosing their
life' s work, at the point of which the prcat American poet, Robert Frost,
speaks in his poem "The Road Not Taken."
Frost tells of coming to an intersection in the path of his life where it
converges with two major trails. One is obviously well-traveled, the leaves
trodden down by the many steps that walked there. He did not choose that
path, but chose rather the other one. the Icsser-travclled one. "because it
was grassy and wanted wear." Its leaves were green and fresh and dewy
untrodden. And he concludes:
"I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less travelled by.
And that has made all the difference."
Martin Adolf, Gabrict Hochbcrg. Jacob Kleinberg. Morris Levinson.
Philip Marantz, Allen Michelson. Morris Schorr. David I. Silverman.
Joshua 0. Steele and Carl (Jrstein. zikhronam livrakhah, at some point in
their young lives, made a choice and they. too. did not choose the well-
HAZZAN SOLOMON MENDELSON is Past President cfThe Cantors Assembly
traveled path that leads to law, medicine, business, science and the like.
They chose, instead, the lesser-trodden path that led to Hazzanut and to
eventual leadership in the American Jewish community.
There must have been some who had also taken the less-traveled path,
who looked upon them with alarm: "Don't go that way," they cautioned:
"We have tried it."
Huderekh usher aranui vu, derekh okhelel halkheha hi! The path
which you are about to take, we have tried it, and found it to be a path
that consumes those who walk it. It may look like it is going some-
where, but it goes around in circles and leads only to endless disap-
pointment and frustration, it is a lonesome, lonely road; you will not
have much company. Take the other road. Don't become a Hazzan.
But there were others. And they, too, had some advice. "True," they
said, "it is a hard road. But there have been trailblazers before you, and the
number of travellers is growing, and they need scouts and guides. In the
long run we are confident that "Tovah haderekh ni 'od m 'od. "
And thankfully, each of these eleven, at his own moment of decision,
took the road that led to service to the American Jewish community. It was
an act of faith and of optimism. Faith in a community in which there was
great potential, and optimism in their ability to bring out that potential, in
themselves and in their congregations.
Choosing the road they took was for these eleven beloved colleagues
an act of commitment which they never failed to fulfill.
Each of them became true kley kodesh, serving their constituencies on
the pulpit, as teachers, as counselors and comforters, as leaders in their
community's cultural undertakings, as role models, as scholars, as dedi-
cated members of the Cantors Assembly and all that this implies; and
above all, they delighted in the study of Torah and in observing its
Al eyle anu hokhim:
M artin Adolf, a founder of the Assembly, was also a lawyer who was
of great help to the fledgling organization with many of its practical
problems. When he retired from Hazzanut he returned to the practice of
law where he specialized in matters dealing with the welfare of the
Gabriel Hochberg was a talented Hazzan and educator who suc-
ceeded because he loved people, particularly children, and they, adults as
well as children, responded to that love. He leaves a large generation of
students, after 39 years of service to Temple Emanuel of Newton Centre,
inspired and uplifted by what he taught them.
Jacob Kleinberg began his career as altosoloist in Yosselc Rosenblatt's
choir, directed by Meyer Posner. He grew up, determined to be a Hazzan,
studied and was called to serve the Laurelton Jewish Center on Long
Island. He remained there for 29 productive years. Always ready to help
the Assembly, he served on many committees and was in charge of
cataloguing the treasure of music we purchased from Zavcl Zilberts'
widow. He retired to San Diego where heremained active in harzanut and
in hazzanic affairs.
Humble, gentle and unassuming, he was a true exemplar of a sheliah
Morris Levinson was an unusually talented and learned Hazzan. He
had a long career in two major eastern synagogues, was a highly-regarded
concert singer, a Hebrew scholar and an active Zionist in the days when
Zionism could use all the help it could muster. He served two terms as Vice
President of the Assembly and was active in its leadership for many years.
On the occasion of his retirement from Beth El of South Orange, New
Jersey, the Tribute Concert program marking that event contained the
following brief, but pithy testimony:
"The magnificence of his voice and the sincerity of his lifelong
devotion to Judaism have been an inspiration to our worshippers and have
left an indelible impression upon our children."
Philip M arantz served Congregation B'nai Zion in Chicago for more
than two decades with great love and distinction. After 20 years of
outstanding service, failing health forced him to retire to Florida. There
he continued to be active in the affairs of the Region and in the work of the
Assembly on the national scene. He was always gracious, kind, unassum-
ing and truly devoted to his calling and to his colleagues.
Allen M khelson was for 32 years the outstanding and beloved Hazzan
of North Hollywood's Adat Ari El. During those years he achieved a
national reputation as a sheliah tzibbur, educator, concert sinper and
conductor. He set a standard of musical excellence on the pulpit and in
music programming for synagogues across the country to follow.
For his colleagues he was an innovator, a master-teacher of many
hazzanim who now serve congregations all over the country. Long an
active proponent of egalitarianism, his efforts helped to move the profes-
sion in that direction. Most of all, he was a loving and caring human being,
with a smile permanently etched into his face; a friend who lit up the
meaning of that word.
M orris Schorr was one of the most revered founders of the Assembly
and a devoted Jewish community servant. He was the Hazzan of Temple
Israel of Elizabeth, New Jersey, where he served with great dedication for
more than 50 years. His influence for good touched the lives of hundreds
upon hundreds of young and old with whom he came in contact.
He served for almost two decades as Chairman of the Placement
Committee and was a life member of the Executive Council, an honor
otherwise reserved for past presidents. It was his choice not to he
nominated for the presidency, preferring to assist his colleagues directly
in their most critical moments. He was the talented son of the renowned
Cantor Israel Schorr. Soft-spoken, modest and concerned, he was always
ready to serve in whatever capacity he could to help colleagues and
congregants in moments of need or distress.
David I. Silverman served as Hazzan for more than 50 years. The son
of Cantor Samuel Silverman, he began singing at the age of seven in the
choir of AryeLeybRutman. At 23. he served his first congregation and
remained a full-time Hazzan for the rest of his life.
He served as the test case in the suit of the IRS. which sought to prove
that a Hazzan was not a clergyman in the legal sense of the word. He was
a perfect subject, and with the aid of our attorney. Herbert Garten, we won
the secondoftwo cases against the IRS. which resulted in the acquiescence
of that body to the fact that a Hazzan was indeed a clergyman. Every
Hazzan, of whatever movement or persuasion should he grateful to
Hazzan Silverman, who helped to assure the continuity of the Parsonage
Allowance and the clergy status of the Hazzanim.
He served Beth El Synagogue in Minneapolis for 23 years where, in
addition to the obvious duties, he was responsible for the production of
over 40 first-rate concerts of Jewish music during his tenure. He was an
accomplished choir director and possessed an outstanding knowledge of
After retiring from Beth El he moved to Albuquerque. New Mexico,
where he resumed his career and served faithfully until one month before
Joshua 0. Steele served Congregation B'nai Israel of Milburn. New
Jersey for more than 25 years. Born in the Rhineland, he began singing in
synagogue choirs at an early age. He was able to escape the Holocaust and
fled to Israel where he was a scholarship student at the Jerusalem
Conservatory of Music. There he studied under famed hazzanim. Y adlovkcr
and Rosows ki.
His beautiful tenor voice led him also to the Hebrew National Opera,
where he sang a number of leading roles. He fought in Israel's War of
Independence and in 1956 came to the United States to begin his service
to B'nai Israel. In spite of his many vocal and musical talents, he
considered his greatest achievement to be the formation of his Sabbath
Youth Choir, a group of special young boys and girls who accompanied
him at each Sabbath service, and who were led to love the Synagogue and
its music because of his warm leadership. To him, hearing his Youth Choir
sing was an ongoing token of Israel reborn, which more than repaid him
for all the hard work he invested in it.
Carl Urstein was a distinguished hazzan and liturgical composer who
served Los Angeles Sinai Temple from 1947 to 1972. Upon his retirement
he was made Hazzan Emeritus, continuing to serve the spiritual needs of
his congregants as friend, counselor and teacher for almost two more
decades. He lent his talents to the development of an elegant musical
tradition at Sinai Temple and in the community at large. His liturgical
compositions are known and sung all over the country and his students
serve in some of our leading conprcgations.
Exceptionally humble and unassuming, he nevertheless left his mark
upon the lives of the thousands with whom he came in contact. His spirit
and creativity will surely continue to serve untold numbers of synapopuc
Jews for years to come.
Here, very briefly, are the life stories of our 1 1 friends and colleagues.
If we are to look for some appropriate phrase to sum up their lives w e
might take a hint from our folk tradition of Gematria. The number I 1 is
in Gematria. Aleph. vav, dalet, Ud. a firebrand. These I 1. these firebrands,
served to light up the path to Yiddishkayt, which they took and on which
they led us along with the men and women they taught and served.
We of the Cantors Assembly are eternally in their debt, grateful that
they chose the less-traveled road, fortunate that they helped blaze the trail
that led us to this moment, and certain thai their light — now passed into
our hands — will continue to bum and inspire through the many genera-
tions still to come.
They leave a void in the fabric of their families not easily repaired, but
they leave us exemplary tokens of dedication to Hazzanut which will
remain as models for those with the wisdom to learn from them. May their
loved ones be comforted in the memories and love they have stored up
through the altogether-too-few years they spent in their company.
They nishmoteyhem tzrurot bitzror hahayim ut'hey memuhatam sha-
lom. May the souls of our departed colleagues be bound up with the souls
of the living in an eternal unity. May their repose be serene and peaceful.
EULOGY FOR HAZZAN YEHUDAH MANDEL
January 9, 1994
Delivered by David f. tilman
I have come before this holy congregation today both as the chairman
of the Delaware Valley Region of the Cantors Assembly and as a close
personal friend of Hazzan Yehudah Mandel, for almost twenty years.
Let me say first that we all truly loved him, and we treasured each and
every moment that we spent in his company. In both his professional and
personal life, Hazzan Yehudah Mandel epitomized every value that all of
us constantly strive to attain. We all chant the Shabbat and Holiday prayers
according to the correct Ashkenazic Nussah, but Hazzan Mandel' s impro-
visations ascended directly heavenward to Sha'arei Shamayim, to the gates
of heaven. We all study voice in order to sing our prayers in a beautiful
fashion, but Hazzan Mandel' s voice touched the souls of all who prayed
with him. We all study Jewish texts, Bible, Rabbinic sources, liturgical
works - in order to be knowledgeable and literate Jews. Hazzan Mandel.
however, had it all memorized!! He would quote a pasuk, a verse from
sacred sources for every conceivable inquiry and situation. How do you
feel, Yehudah? - A verse from the Torah. What's new in the placement
committee, Yehudah? - A quote from the Mishnah. How are Lilly, Zvi, and
the grandchildren. Yehudah? - Another quote, and so on and so on!
And then there was that speaking voice, that accent which he brought
with him from Hungary with such pride so many years ago. If we all accept
the undeniable fact that imitation is the highest form of flattery, then we
Cantors flattered Yehudah wHhoutend whenever he was with us. Yehudah
told me many times that among our colleagues who attempted to speak as
he did, Hazzan Benjamin Maissner, of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto,
who formerly served the Germantown Jewish Center, captured that special
lilt, the music, the poetry, the charm, of Yehudah' s speech better than any
of us. Yehudah would say that when Benny spoke like him, he would hear
himself and he would have to check who was in fact speaking.
I want to share with you a wonderful story that occurred almost twenty
years ago. Yehudah called Hazzan Harry Weinberg, of blessed memory,
formerly Cantor of Beth T'fillah of Overbrook Park, and a past national
officer of the Cantors Assembly. Yehudah began in his own inimitable
style, "Good morning, Harry, this is Yehudah." Harry answered impa-
is Beth Sholom Congregation of Elkins Park
liently, "What do you want, Benny? I'm very busy." Eventually. Ychudah
convinced Harry that it was truly he.
Last spring, the Cantors Assembly honored Yehudah Mandcl at our
annual convention here in Philadelphia, but Yehudah could not attend.
Only a few weeks ago. Yehudah felt well enough to attend our weekly
meeting. We were so overjoyed to see him that we rose to our feet and
cheered and applauded. Ychudah smiled broadly and stayed with us for the
entire mcetinp. He was so proud that we were carrying on the sacred work
which he and his colleagues had bequeathed to us!
After a long life and an overwhclminply successful career, beyond
measure. Hazzan Yehudah Mandel has been called by the Almighty to his
eternal reward. That vast treasure of information, wisdom, scichel. remi-
niscences about the Cantors of old. about Budapest, the Rombach Temple,
the Klomatzka Street Tetnplc of Warsaw, the Seitenstettenpasscn Temple
Of Vienna, the music of Sulzer, and all the other great masters, the verses
from our sacred texts - these treasures which he so willingly and eagerly
shared with us are now scaled forever.
We shall never again he able to "come forward" as wc answer his
summons to daven shacharit at our conventions or be moved by his
bravado interpretation of Hazzanic masterpieces, or benefit from his wise
and loving counsel. Wc all miss him and we are all better people and
hazzanim because of the time wc spent with him. May his memory be for
EULOGY FOR HAZZAN YEHUDAH MANDEL
January 9, 1994
Delivered by David B. Katchen
A few weeks ago we read the Torah Portion of Vayigash which begins:
"Vayigash elav Yehudah vaxonier hi Adonaiy' daberna avd'cha davar
b'oznei Adoni. And Yehudah came near unto him, and said, Oh my lord,
please let your servant speak a word in my lord's ear." A decade ago.
Hazzan Yehudah Mandel came near to me, and it became increasingly
pleasant for me to hear his words spoken in my ear. Hazzanim from far and
wide had known of his notable accomplishments and erudition, but the
nearer I came to him. the more enthralled and hungry I became for his
spoken word. Having been fortunate to grow up at my father's table, this
exposure to his greatness became reminiscent of formative years which I
Hazzan Mandel's warmth, understanding, insight, dignity, grandeur,
propriety, encouragement, and so much more have been my guiding light
since coming to Philadelphia ten years ago. Hazzan Mandel had the great
knack of quoting the perfect pasuk at will, which always elicited greatjoy.
It always was a joy for mc to go with him together as it is written of
Avraham and Yitzhak:
"Vayelchu shneihem yackdav - And they went both of them together."
Wherever we went, for me it was at least as much fun going to and coming
from the place, as what it was we were embarking upon. The little
anecdotes of the Golden Age of Hazzanut. personal contacts with the
famous Leibish Miller, and the Koussevitsky family, life in Hungary and
Riga, his extensive travels, the private recitals featuring his glorious and
well-disciplined voice, the interpretations, the intonations. What an expe-
rience, what an education, what a thrill, what a "Mensch!"
Hazzan Mandel was a fountain of knowledge, and was most apprecia-
tive of whatever was done for him. He spoke of his rich legacy with relish,
and spoke of his family with great love. "Vayelchu shneihem yachdav -
And they went both of them together." Yes, he was so very proud to walk
together, side by side, with Lilly, his Eishet Chayil. He was so proud to
have so caring a partner, so cultured a woman, so gracious a lady, so loving
a wife, to share his life and enjoy all that they had. He was grateful to Lilly
for all the little things she did to help perpetuate his lifestyle.
HAZZAN DAVID KATCHEN serves Oxford Circle Jewish Community Center in
Hazzan Mandel spoke of Manny, who he always called Tzvi, and his
family - Adrian. Lisa, and Dale, David and Judy, Zachary, and Gabriellc
- how proud he was of all their achievements - how jubilant he was when
he and Lilly went to Washington for the simchah of naming his great-
granddaughter about a year ago.
His elegant presence inspired and will continue to inspire all in his
sphere. In Parashat "Ki Tavo - When you come" - we find the Verse:
Ilashkijah mini' on kodsh'clui nun liushaniuxim uveiracli el amclui et
yisrael Vet ha-iuhimali aslwr nakilci hum ka usher nislibcita lavoteinyu
eretz zavat chalav udvash. "Look forth from Thy holy habitation, from
Heaven, and bless Thy people Israel, and the land which Thou hast given
us. as Thou didst swear unto our fathers, a land flowing with milk and
When Hazzan Mandel came, he looked forth from his perspective, and
served as a blessing for his people in so many places and opportunities, in
his untiring dedication to make our lives more fulfilling and sweeter.
" IluRav HeHaatn Ychiukih Leib hen IlaRav Avraluini, cihiv hashalom,
serve for us all as an intercede! in Hashem's Heavenly Court.
T'hei nishmato tz'rurah bitz'ror hachayim - May his soul be bound up
in the bond of eternal life" and let us say Amen.
Guidelines for Music Education
Reviewed by Robert S. SCHERR
In 1992, the collective efforts of talented hazzanim and educators came
to fruition in the publication of Project Manginot published by the Union
of American Hebrew Congregations. The publication itself is geared
specifically to the UAHC William and Frances Schuster Curriculum
Guidelines, but is most useful for every school program. As Cantor Samuel
Dov Berman, Project Coordinator, proposes in the introduction:
"Manginot.. .will expand the ability of students to grasp Jewish values,
ideals, and history as Jewish learning comes alive..."
Manginot really consists of two parts. Project Manginot is the
curriculum guide. It is supported by the companion Manginot, 201 Songs
for Jewish Schools which contains the sheet music: for all the songs.
The auricular guidelines are divided into "Preschool." "Primary" and
"Intermediate" grade levels. Musical activities, with specific songs, are
suggested for particular curricular goals. In the Preschool section, for
example, there is a unit on how growing up and changing are recognized
in homes, synagogues, and schools. It is suggested that children can sing
Yom Huledet Sameach and hear the cantor chant a Yevarechecha as might
be heard in the synagogue for a birthday blessing. Reference to "It's Your
Birthday" and "Next Year I'll Be One Year Older" from Torah Connection
by Ida Rose Feingold (Lettercraft. 1985) and Hayom Yom Huledet from
The New Children's Song Book. I 10 Songs for the Young by Velvel
Pasternak (Tara Publications, 1981 ) enable the teacher/music leader to
support the curricular goal with age-appropriatematerial. In this curricular
section, suggestions are given to support units on Marriage. Aging, and
Death, in most appropriate and imaginative ways. Units on Brit. Israel.
Hebrew, Tefila, and Shabbat arc among the useful suggestions of this
preschool path to learning through song.
In the Primary Grades, lifecycle events include Brit Milah (sing or
h i i i / i i i i i i Mil Maiuli Con
cration (chanting Sh'ma, Aleph Bet. Prayer is Reaching, La-asok B'divrei
Torah) Bar/t Mitzvah (discuss responsibility, learn to sing or listen toAni
HAZZAN ROBERT SCHERR serves Temple Israel of Natick. Massachusetts.
V'atah) and so forth. In the intermediate section, students are encouraged
to investigate how Jews have prayed over the centuries by comparing
musical settings of various prayers, hearing recordings or singing the
melodies themselves. There's a lovely lesson plan where it is suggested
that children enter the sanctuary and turn to the Torah service, reciting the
prayers without music. Following the discussion of "what it felt like."
students will learn the melodies themselves, as well as hear a variety of
settings of the texts.
The bibliography and discography are extensive and clear to follow.
The Index of Core Songs is organized hy unit, and cross-referenced by age
Some who will use Manginot will recognize, through its references to
the Union Prayerbook or Gates of Prayer, or through the abundance of
English language material, that it comes from the orientation of the Reform
Movement. However, hazzanim, music teachers, and educators should in
no way find this a limitation of the curriculum. Rather, many who arc not
otherwise well-versed in some of this material, particularly the songs for
young children, will benefit from the imagination of the curriculum. In
some schools, whichmipht prefcrmore Hebrew texts or other melodies for
tefilot. this material will nonetheless be a useful guide for using music in
an imaginative way.
The long list of talented editors and contributors should be acknowl-
edged hecausc their collective imagination produced a distinctive and
Cantor Samuel Dov Berman. Project Manginot Coordinator
Rabbi Daniel Frccdlandcr, Commission on Synagogue Music
Rabbi Lawrence P. Karol. Project Manginot Revision Editor
Cantor Stephen Richards. Project Manginot Music Editor
Dr. Judith Tischler. Transcontinental Music Publications
Cantor Vicki L. Axe. Project Manginot Intermediate Guidelines
Cantor Janece Erman Cohen. Project Manginot Primary Guidelines
Cantor Mark Elson. Project Manginot Preschool Guidelines
Manginot clearly will guide young people to learn and appreciate
important themes in a spirited and spiritual way. Cantor Berman' s goal is
admirably fulfilled, to "enhance the classroom and the Jewish home with
melodies that arouse curiosity, excite the soul, and kindle the flame of
Project Manginot and Manginot are published by the Union of Ameri-
can Hebrew Congregations, and are available from Transcontinental
SYNAGOGUE MUSIC FOR CANTOR AND CHOIR
By Cantor Paul Kowarsky
Reviewed by Jerome B. Kopmar
With the apparent demise of the synagogue choir as a functional aspect
of the synagogue service, one's first question is, why another anthology of
choral music? Who will perform it? But after perusing this new volume by
Paul Kowarsky. two feelings go through one's mind. First, what a shame
there are so few synagogue choirs in North America that can utilize the
many treasures in this wonderful collection. The second thought is that
even if one can't utilize this volume as a practicing vehicle, it should be in
every cantor's library as a resource volume.
The reputation of Hazzan Kowarsky as a performer is well known, but
his talents as a composer are to many asurprise. When looking through this
volume the first feeling one gets is that this is the work of someone who
knows his craft as a hazzan. Aside from possessing a wonderful gift of
melody, Hazzan Kowarsky is able to notate his thoughts in a logical and
meaningful mananer. One can see the years of pulpit experience on every
page. It should be said from the outset that this volume throughout is in the
traditional style. If one's taste in synagogue music is the contemporary
style, this volume will not be their cup of tea, although I believe everyone
can learn from it.
There are so many treasures that one doesn't know where to begin.
Perhaps the most adventurous selection, and perhaps one of the most
difficult, is the Mimkomcha. This piece adopted from "oriental motifs" and
brilliantly arranged by Charles Heller, is truly a gem. The infectious
rhythms pulsating throughout the piece make it not only a toe-tapper, but
one of wonderful musical creativity. Maintaining the Ahavah Rabah mode
throughout, the harmonic structure, although unchanging, fits the piece
like sunshine in summer. Because of the rhythms, this is not for your
average amateur choir; but. if it can be done, the rewards will be multiple.
Another piece worth special mention is the V hasienu from the Shalosh
Regalim musaf amida. What makes this piece so special is the fact that it
is even there. There are so few choral selections for this text that when you
sees one. you look at it with different eyes. From the very opening, in a
surprising major, one's interest is never dulled. From the wonderful
interplay between the cantor and choir throughout the piece to the
charming melodies, especially the Kadsheinu and the virtuoso cantorial
solos, this piece keeps your attention throughout.
One can examine many more selections for special mention, but space
doesn't permit this. There is something for everyone. If your taste is in the
more classical style, there is the beautifullj structured Torah service (En
Kamocha, AvHa rachamim, Vay'hibinsoa). If you lean toward the hassidic
style, and not ersatz hassidic. you will find immediate joy with the
Yismechu and Al Hanissim. For sheer melodic beauty there is the Shema
B'ni, Shim 'i Vat and the already very popular Shir Hama'alot, to mention
but a few. Throughout the volume the hazzanic lines arc in the classic and
florid Eastern European style. Unfortunately this may not be accessible to
everyone's range or abilities. And yet. there are many selections suited to
Again, one must bemoan the fact that because of the paucity of
synagogue choirs, much of this repertoire will go unheard. One must also
be regretful that there aren't more who can write like Paul Kowarsky. This
volume should be a cherished possession for anyone who has a love for
traditional synagogue music.
Liturgical Selections in Classical Style
for Voice and Keyboard
Jerome B. Kopmar
Reviewed by Abraham lubin
Hazzanim today are constantly challenged to preserve the traditions
and forms of the classical Hazzanut literature, and at the same time to
speak to worshippers of the 90' s who have not been steeped and attuned
to the rich liturgical and musical nuances of the classic East European
S h i r a t Libi by Hazzan Jerome Kopmar, beautifully published by Tara
Publications, is an attempt to bridge the gap of classical Hazzanut to the
contemporary worshipper. In lieu of the free improvisational technique.
Kopmar set the pieces in Shirat Libi, in strict meter and tempo, to lovely
lyrical melodies which immediately capture the musical taste buds of the
average listener and worshipper. With the exception of the declamatory
opening measures in the Sh'ma Yisrael of the Musaf Kedisha and an
occasional ad libitum marking, all the pieces are set to clean, tuneful and
Six of the seven pieces, namely: Sh'ma Yisrael. L'dor Vador R'tse
Vimnuchatenu, M'chalkel Chciyim, Kohanecha and Sim Shalom will flow
quite readily in the context of any contemporary service. An additional
seventh piece. Hine Mu Tov is arranged to include, as an option, the use
of flute and harp in the accompaniment.
The piano accompaniment to the pieces makes this collection a useful
and wonderful addition to be rendered on the Bimah as well as on the
One final word. These are not sing-along melodies to be sung in
summer camp - guitar- accompanied style. They are set to be sung and
interpreted by a professional Hazzan in a formal and dignified setting,
within the synagogue or on stage.
Beth El in Bethesda. Maryland. Hei
FAMILY SHABBAT AND FESTIVAL MEDLEY
Reuven Frankel, Baritone
Gerald Rizzer, Piano
Reviewed by Stephen Freedman
For too many Jews, the performance of even the simplest rituals is an
enigma, so that it becomes easier to ignore or discard them, rather than
having to feel embarrassed and uncomfortable with one's lack of knowl-
That reality was one of the driving forces which impelled Reuven
Frankel, cantor turned rabbi, to develop the tape "Family Shabbat and
Festival Medley." It focuses mainly on the "seder shel Shabbat" for Friday
night and Shabbat day, while including a number of original Shabbat and
holiday songs we well.
The ritual at the Friday eve table is presented in music, from candle-
lighting through Birkat Hamazon. While not comprehensive - only the
opening paragraph of Birkat is heard, and only brief excerpts from the
zemirot are presented - the tape conveys a wonderful sense of Shabbat
menuchah, a feeling of serenity and peacefulness. The Shabbat day
Kiddush, followed by additional zemirot is included as well, though oddly,
Havdalah is not.
The melodies which Frankel has selected tend toward those with
which the greatest number of people would be familiar. And yet, he has
included some lovely, albeit lesser-known settings as well, such as
Janowsky's "Eishet Chayil," in Hebrew and English, Davidson's
"V'shamru," and a hauntingly beautiful melody for the zemirah "B'nei
The question, though, is "Ma Nishtana?" What makes this tape
different than the dozens of other shabbat recordings on the market today'?
As noted earlier, it is in no way unabridged textually. In addition, there is
no orchestral accompaniment, no "commercial" arrangements, no daz-
zling technical effects, nor does it feature "star" performer.
The beauty of this recording lies in its simplicity. Originally conceived
as a teaching aid, this tape offers enough, but not so much so as to be
overwhelming. All of the pieces are set in comfortable keys for the average
HAZZAN STEPHEN FREEDMAN serves Congregation Beth Israel, Worcester.
Rabbi Reuven Frankel is blessed with a wonderfully rich baritone
voice. His pianist, Gerard Rizzer, composed most of the accompaniments;
they are at once tasteful and engaging. They are more than background to
the vocal line, having an integrity all their own, yet they are never
The second side of the tape is devoted to Frankel' s original composi-
tions, in Hebrew and English, on shabbat and holiday themes. His "Chag
Sameach" and "Sing Hut-ray, Sing Hurray" are delightful participatory
songs for children. "Modeh Ani" and "I Love Shabbat" are geared toward
younger children. "Welcome, Shabbat Angels," which uses the music of
Israel Goldfarb, is a lovely mood-setter for the Shabbat table. The two
Haggadah pieces, though, are less effective.
Technical purists, take note: The background hiss on side one (origi-
nally recorded in 1977) might be bothersome, but the sheer elegance of
Rabbi Frankel' s presentation far outweighs that small consideration. The
second side, recorded in 1992, displays a more sophisticated level of
In short, Reuven Frankel merits our gratitude for sharing his dual
talents vocal and creative, through the vehicle of his marvelous tape. As
a teaching tool, it is invaluable; as artistry, it is wholly satisfying.
"Family Shabbat and Festival Medley." with accompanying song
booklet, is available through Tara Public
FOR THE RECORD
Reviewed by SHIMON GEWIRTZ
Three diverse recordings offer a rich and varied menu of musical
selections. While only one contains strictlj cantorial selections, the other
two provide many treasures that can be enjoyed or used in performance,
In the latter category is I My Beloved's - Music for the Modern Jewish
Wedding - chanted by Cantor Edward Fogel. of Congregation Shaare
Emeth of St. Louis, Mo.
The recording contains some 25 selections, the majority of texts being
from Shir Has hi rim. (The Song of Songs) - Some of the familiar texts have
two or more musical settings, offering the listener an interesting choice of
styles and arrangements.
Cantor Fogel possesses a beautiful, lyric tenor voice, and his musician-
ship is expressed by allowing the meaning of each song to emerge in a
fluid, natural style.
The selections include popular settings including: "Rise Up. My Love"
by Gershon Kingsley. Ana Dodi by Charles Davidson. "Entreat Me Not
To Leave Thee" by Max Janowski. Ana Dodi and Sh 'neyhem by Michael
Isaacson and Al Tifg'i L'azveych by Lawrence Avery. There arc lovely
arrangements of Israeli ""standards." such as Erev Shel Shoshanim, Dodi Li
and El Ginat Ego:.
Another composer whose work is featured is Ben Steinberg, repre-
sented here by two selections. The first, V'evrastich Li, is sung in both
Hebrew and English, and features a beautiful choral background as well.
The second is an extended setting of the S /leva B'rachot, sweetly chanted
by Cantor Fogel.
There are some unusual inclusions as well, such as two Ladino love
songs, a father's hymn of love to his daughter. (Biti by Michael Isaacson)
and a musical setting for Shalom Aleichem (also by Isaacson). I'm not
ccrrain how these latter two fit the theme of the recording, but they are
welcome additions to our storehouse of Jewish music.
Finally, additional praise must be given for the marvelous accompani-
ment piven to Cantor Fogel, as well as the elaborate and extensive liner
notes included with the recording. They include text references, transla-
SHIMON GEWIRTZ is Hazzan of Temple Toral Yisrael, Cranston. R.I.
tions and even a list of places and publishers where the music might be
obtained! Quite unusual and most thoughtful.
Cantor Avi Albrecht of Shelter Rock Jewish Center, Roslyn, L. I. has
a new recording called LIVE FROM ISRAEL . . . CANTORIAL CON-
CERT, containing six selections in - more or less - traditional hazzanic
style. Two of the numbers, Mimkomcha and Ata Hu, are original compo-
sitions, and are performed with both charm and passion. They both contain
a folk-like quality, as well, which helps draw the listener in. As for
standards like V liy 'rushalayim Ircha by Abe Ellstein and Av Harachamim
by Pinchik, Cantor Albrecht' s cultured lyric baritone flows through them
easily. The minor reservations that I have are more of a technical nature . . .
such as the minimal liner notes the selections - including who accompanies
what number and where and when this "live" recording was done. (The
liner note states that it was recorded and mixed at Eshel studios, in Israel).
Some clarification would have helped. Otherwise, a hearty yasherkochecha.
Last, there is an exciting recording by Cantor Mayer Davis of Congre-
gation Kehilath Jeshurun of New York that manages to combine folk, pop,
and hazzanic elements into a unique flavor rarely displayed in current
Jewish records. Cantor Davis was ace-founder (along with Mati Lazar) of
Tayku, an experimental folk/rock/jazz ensemble that pioneered the expres-
sion of Hebrew and Israeli music in a new direction. He has been a guest
soloist with both Zamir Chorales, and possesses a dynamic tenor voice,
brimming with personality. Because he has not limited his choice of songs
or arrangements to one style, area of music, or type of accompaniment,
Cantor Davis is able to infuse his selections with a great deal of spice and
taam. He is backed by the wonderful Neshomah Orchestra.
Beginning with a Hasidic-style resetting of the Shehech'yanu blessing,
Cantor Davis next presents a poignant ballad of hope and longing - written
by David Burger - called "My Chiefest Joy," which is as contemporary as
today's headlines. His original Od Yishama could move one to dance, and
his rendition of "Papa, Can You Hear Me'" (from "Yentl") instills that
classic with new insight and emotional texture. Other personal favorites
include an original Avinu Malkeinu and folk-oriented D'ror Yikra, in
which the singing style becomes simpler and more direct. The liner notes
are elaborate and well-planned, and another bonus is the printing of all the
lyrics. Indeed, an impressive first record by a talented and dynamic cantor,
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The winners of a Hallel song contest
By Robert S. Scherr
In the fall of 1991, under the auspices of my synagogue's Fine Arts
Fund, we created a contest to stimulate interest in creating new melodies
for congregational song in the Hallel service. The concept of the contest
was that by advertising through the Cantors Assembly, American Confer-
ence of Cantors, Guild of Temple Musicians, and others, interested
musicians would submit offerings. Perhaps stimulated by the small
monetary prize offered, and probably more significantly by the creative
muse which motivates most composers, many entries were received. A
committee of three hazzanim (Charles Osborne, Robbie Solomon, and
myself), and Dr. Lee Rothfarb, from the Music Department of Harvard
University, evaluated the entries and awarded prizes. The following
compositions were premiered for Temple Israel of Natick on the First day
of Pesach in 1 99 1 . They have become a beloved part of the repertoire of
The compositions appear here with the permission of their composers,
Emil Berkovits, Shimon Gewirtz, and Yossi Zucker.
HAZZAN ROBERT SCHERR serves at Temple Israel of Natick, Massachus<
L BERK0V1TS is Hazzan of Beth El Synagogue
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Note from the composer
This piece has been sung for many years at Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda.
Toronto. If affords an opportunity to give the cantor a rest at the end of
Musaf and also to feature a boy chorister. The relatively long phrases
require some training for a boy to sing them properly, and this gives the
boys a goal to work for. It is a matter of great pride when a boy sings this
solo for the first time; his photo and biography are printed in the shul
bulletin. In this way, participation in the choir provides musical, educa-
tional and social rewards.
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